The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team once again rallied from a second half deficit to capture an 86-83 overtime victory over Dominican College in the semi-finals at the NCAA East Region semi-finals in Manchester, NH. The Spartans are now 25-6 and advance to Tuesday's final to take on tournament host and top seed St. Anselm, which advanced with a 70-69 win over New Haven.
Both teams came out firing in an energetic start, with six lead changes in the initial five minutes of play. Ian Gardner's three touched off an 8-0 Dominican run to open a 19-12 lead, but Demetre Roberts answered from deep to bring STAC within four with 12:52 left in the half. The defenses kicked in from there as both teams went scoreless for a span of just under four minutes, and Daniel Grant broke the streak with a three to give the Chargers a 24-15 edge.
STAC's defense kept the game within reach despite the offensive drought, as Dominican held a 35-24 edge with 3:24 to go, but that lead would diminish. Roberts hit two more of his team-high 13 first half points to start a 6-0 answer and the Spartans settled for a manageable 36-30 deficit entering intermission.
An early exchange of second-half baskets saw the Spartans trail by three but a wild sequence on a loose ball ended with Zach Rzewnicki firing a deep three to tie the score at 47-47 with 13:43 left. Each team hit one-of-two from the line and Daraia Rodwell and Rzewnicki exchanged quick threes to again deadlock the score at 51-51. Dominican took charge from there with back-to-back Tayvon Ginyard threes sparking a 12-0 run to open a 63-51 lead midway through the second half.
STAC wasn't done just yet as Louis Griffith posted five straight points in a 9-2 Spartans response, again trimming the deficit to 65-60 with under four to play. St. Thomas Aquinas turned up the frantic full-court pressure and Roberts hit a floater in the lane to make the score 67-65 with 2:47 left. A missed front end gave the Spartans a chance and a loose ball foul put Osbel Caraballo at the line where he calmly sank two to tie the score with 2:37 to go. After another forced turnover, Caraballo drove the lane and hit the net to put STAC up at 69-67 with 2:00 left.
Ginyard answered big with the shot clock expiring, hitting a fallaway three to put the Chargers back on top at 70-69 with 1:22 on the clock. Caraballo lost the handle on the way to the hoop but Rzewnicki was there for the follow as STAC jumped on top, only to see Gardner change the lead on a putback with 36 seconds to go. Dominican game out of a wild scramble with a loose ball and Rodwell hit a pair from the line, setting the stage for Louis Griffth to drain the game-tying three with five seconds to play, sending the game to overtime at 74-74.
Dominican took a 78-75 lead in the extra session, but Roberts was fouled behind the arc and calmly hit all three foul shots to again tie the score, and a beautiful passing play led to a Sudan layup to put the Spartans on top, 80-78, with 2:30 left. Jason Copman tied the score from in close a minute later, but Roberts came through with a highlight-reel play, absorbing a foul and tossing up a desperation one-handed shot that caught the front of the rim and fell through, with the three-point play giving STAC an 83-80 edge. Dominican ran the clock and Roberts was on the spot again, picking off a cross-court pass, and Kam Murrell was fouled with 23.2 left, hitting the big pair to open an 85-80 gap.
With the seconds running down, Ginyard pump-faked and drew a three shot foul, giving the Chargers life at 85-83 with 12.0 left. Roberts was fouled on the inbound with 11.1 left, making one of two and the desperation heave at the buzzer was off the mark, sending the Spartans to the Regional Final for the second time in three years.
Roberts set the tone for the Spartans with a game-high 22 points and Caraballo added 18. Four scorers hit double-figures for Dominican, with Ginyard and Gardner posting 22 each.
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
Sunday, March 17 - Semifinals
Game 5: St. Thomas Aquinas 86, Dominican 83 (OT)
Game 6: St. Anselm 70, New Haven 69
Tuesday, March 19 - Championship
Game 7: St. Thomas Aquinas vs. St. Anselm - 7 p.m. (LIVE VIDEO | LIVE STATS)