The St. Thomas Aquinas College women's basketball team takes in New York Institute of Technology at 12:00 noon Sunday for the East Coast Conference Women's Basketball Championship at Voller Athletic Center in Rochester, NY. This marks the fourth finals appearance by St. Thomas Aquinas and the first since 2012, while NYIT is making their third trip to the championship game in four years and fifth overall. Both programs are in search of their first ECC Tournament Championship.
How They Got Here - NYIT started Semi-final Saturday pulling a stunning 80-78 upset over top-seeded LIU Post. The Bears, who are the tourney's #4 seed, emerged from a 19-point deficit to make their third ECC Tourney Final appearance in the last four years, advancing on Maia Hood's last-second field goal off a missed shot. Nina Vukosavljevic paced four NYIT players in double-figures with 19 points, with Hood (17), Taylor Triptree (16) ane Shalie Freierson (16) all chipping in.
Despite being the higher seed, the #2 Lady Spartans were forced to take on the tourney hosts on their own floor, but rode a 33-point outburst from Alex Bertolino to a 68-52 triumph. STAC jumped out to an early lead but didn't pull away until a fourth-quarter outburst spurred by three trey's from Julia Winnick, in addition to Emily Preston's career-high 19 rebound effort.
The Match-up - The Lady Spartans (25-4) swept the regular season series from NYIT (19-11), prevailing by a 75-61 count at Recreation Hall on January 17, and claiming an 80-62 win at Aquinas Hall on February 14. In the first meeting, each team placed four scorers in double-figures with Jenna Erickson leading the way with 17 for STAC while Hood and Vukosavljevic posted 14 each for Tech. In the rematch, Erickson led the way with 26 and Winnick chipped in 17, with Hood pacing NYIT with 13.
Players to Watch - Hood and Vukosavljevic were both honored by ECC coaches with First Team All-Conference awards, making NYIT the only team to place two First Teamers this season. STAC is led by ECC Player of the Year and First Team selection Jenna Erickson, with Adiya Henderson named Defensive Player of the Year in addition to her Second Team All-ECC status.
NCAA Bound? - St. Thomas Aquinas is in search of its first trip to the NCAA Division II Tournament since the 2003 season. The ECC Tournament Champion receives an automatic berth to the NCAAs, and the Lady Spartans' current #4 regional ranking leaves them in excellent position for an at-large bid should they not take the title. NYIT, which has appeared in the national tournament in each of the past two seasons, needs a victory Sunday to extend their season. Location, dates and pairings for the NCAA Tournament are to be determined on Sunday night.