The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team makes its third straight NCAA Tournament appearance, squaring off with Bloomfield College in the East Regional on Saturday at 2:30 pm, at Henninger Center, Syracuse, NY.
How They Got Here - Having earned the first round by into the semi-finals, STAC (26-6) held off a stern challenge from #3 Daemen College for a 60-57 win on March 3, with Justin Reyes recording a game-high 17 points. That set the stage for a championship showdown with #1 Bridgeport, who had swept the regular-season series. The Spartans played tenacious defense throughout and a late first-half surge propelled them to an 82-65 victory and their third conference championship in as many seasons. Bloomfield (22-7) finished at 17-2 in first place in the CACC North division, but suffered a first-round upset at the hands of #4 seed USciences, though the Bears earned an at-large bid and their 8th trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The Match-up - These teams squared off once in the regular season, with the Spartans traveling to Bloomfield Gym and emerging with an 83-79 triumph in overtime on November 29 (box score, recap). In that affair, STAC opened an 18-point first half lead, only to see the Bears take a last-minute lead before taking it to overtime. Four lead changes punctuated the overtime before the Spartans reeled off six straight points and secure the win. Justin Reyes led the visitors with 18, while Marcus Fleming posted a game-high 19 for Bloomfield.
Players to Watch - Reyes earned his third consecutive ECC Player of the Year Award, and James Mitchell and Shaq McFarlan both earned Second Team honors. For Bloomfield, Coach Gerald Holmes was named CACC Coach of the Year, Nick Davidson was named All-CACC First Team, Keith Washington placed on the Second Team, and Safee Abdus-Safur drew Third Team kudos.
Spartans in the Post-Season – STAC won five games in each of the two seasons preceding the hiring of Coach Tobin Anderson (‘11-12 and ‘12-13). The Spartans have advanced to the ECC Finals in each of the past five seasons, winning the first three Tournament Championships in the program’s history. In the Division II era, STAC is 13-4 in playoff competition (all in the past five years under Anderson), with a 9-2 mark in ECC Tournament action, 4-1 in NCAA East Regional action, and 0-1 at the Elite Eight. Today’s game is STAC’s first in the post-season against a CACC foe – each of their previous five East games were against Northeast-10 opposition.
Happy New Year(s) – Over the past three seasons, STAC has been a more-than-respectable 29-10 in games played from the start of the season through December 31st. Since January 1, however, they are an amazing 52-7, including a pair of losses to Bridgeport this season. Record by Months: November/December – 29-10. January – 23-2. February – 19-3. March – 10-2 (all post-season). Three of those post-New Year losses were by a combined eight points, and Justin Reyes was unavailable for three of the seven total.
2018 NCAA Division II Men's Basketball East Regional
1. Le Moyne College (24-6) [NE10 automatic berth]
2. St. Thomas Aquinas (26-6) [ECC automatic berth]
3. University of Bridgeport (25-5)
4. Saint Anselm College (22-8)
5. The College of Saint Rose (20-9)
6. Merrimack College (19-11)
7. Bloomfield College (22-7)
8. Jefferson (21-13) [CACC automatic berth]
Regional Schedule (all played at Henninger Athletic Center's Ted Grant Court, Syracuse, N.Y.)
March 10 – First Round games
12 p.m. Game No. 1. – Merrimack vs. Bridgeport
2:30 p.m. Game No. 2 – Bloomfield vs. St. Thomas Aquinas
5 p.m. Game No. 3 – Jefferson vs. Le Moyne
7:30 p.m. Game No. 4 – Saint Rose vs. Saint Anselm
March 11 – Regional Semifinals
5 p.m. Game No. 5. (Winner Game No. 1 vs. Winner Game No. 2)
7:30 p.m. Game No. 6. (Winner Game No. 3 vs. Winner Game No. 4)
March 13 – Regional Championship Game
7 p.m. Game No. 7. (Winner Game No. 5 vs. Winner Game No. 6)