The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team rallied to defeat LeMoyne, 61-59, and advance to the semi-finals at the NCAA Tournament East Regional in Manchester, NH. The Spartans improve to 24-6 with the win, while LeMoyne's season closes at 18-10. STAC will play CACC Champion and #7 Dominican, with tipoff at 5:00 Sunday. The Chargers advanced with a 64-50 win over #2 seed and NE-10 Tournament Champion Merrimack.
LeMoyne jumped to a quick lead on a pair of Necdet Gurkan threes, but Jamar Sudan answered with one of his own to cut the margin to 10-8. The Dolphins continued to fire from deep, hitting 4-of-6 from beyond the arc to claim a 20-11 edge after eight minutes of action. Grant Singleton's layup made the tally 20-14, but Ryan Roland made four straight free throws and a fast-break layup as part of LeMoyne's 14-4 answer, opening a 34-18 advantage with five minutes left in the half. While STAC held the Dolphins to just three points over the final 5:46 of play, the offense struggled, with Osbel Caraballo providing half of his squad's points in a 37-24 halftime deficit.
Out of the break, LeMoyne threatened to put the game away with an 8-2 run as Tom Brown's layup opened a 45-26 advantage, but the Spartans came roaring back. Jamar Sudan started the run with a layup, Demetre Roberts followed from deep, and Sekou Cisse reeled off four straight points as STAC's 9-0 run closed the gap to 45-35. After a Brown three, Zach Rzewnicki ran off five straight to make the tally 48-40 with 11:50 left.
CJ Asuncion-Byrd converted a three-point play, but STAC's run was far from finished as Louis Griffith hit a layup and Demetre Roberts was fouled while converting a trey, as the four-point play closed St. Thomas Aquinas to within 51-46 midway through the half. Caraballo's three-point play and a pair of Sudan free throws drew closer at 53-51 and STAC came up empty on a pair of trips to tie or take the lead, as an exchange of hoops left the score at 55-53 with 6:27 left.
STAC recorded just its third steal of the game and Demetre Roberts stroked a foul-line jumper to bring the Spartans even at 55-55 with 5:49 left. After another exchange of hoops, Caraballo's driving layup gave St. Thomas Aquinas its first lead of the game at 59-57 with 2:42 left. STAC's tenacious defense continued to take its toll with another stop, and Roberts converted from in close with the shot clock again winding down, making the tally 61-57 with 1:34 left.
Out of a LeMoyne timeout, Kobi Nwandu fought through traffic to bring the Dolphins within two with 1:03 to go, and Griffith's jumper came up shy with 28 seconds left. Tense moments ensued with 17.8 left as a replay confirmed a loose ball going to the Spartans, and Roberts was fouled with 16.0 to go. Roberts missed the front end, however, setting up a potential game-winning shot at the buzzer, but Malik Garner's three was just long, sending STAC into the regional semis for the third time in four years.
Caraballo paced the Spartans with 17 points while Roberts added 13. Brown led LeMoyne, tying for game-high with 17, with Asencion-Byrd chipping in 12. STAC was strong from the line, shooting 83% (15-18), while the Dolphins struggled from the stripe with 56% shooting (10-18).
Saturday, March 16 - Quarterfinals
Game 1: #6 Saint Thomas Aquinas 61, #3 Le Moyne 59
Game 2: #7 Dominican 64, #2 Merrimack 50
Game 3: #1 Saint Anselm 81, #8 Molloy 71
Game 4: #4 New Haven 72, #5 Daemen 67
Tuesday, March 19 - Championship
Game 7: Winner of Game 5 vs. Winner of Game 6 - 7 p.m. (LIVE VIDEO | LIVE STATS)