Third Quarter Surge Propels #3 Lady Spartans past #6 Bridgeport, 62-53

Third Quarter Surge Propels #3 Lady Spartans past #6 Bridgeport, 62-53

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The St. Thomas Aquinas College women's basketball team advanced to the semi-finals of the East Coast Conference Women's Basketball Tournament with a 62-53 victory over the University of Bridgeport. The #3 seeded Lady Spartans are now 19-10 overall and advance to the semi-finals to play #2 Molloy on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 pm at the University of Bridgeport. The winner of that game plays in Sunday's championship final at 12:00 noon.

Bridgeport's defense flustered STAC early, and Camera Miley's three pointer staked the Purple Knights to a 10-0 advantage midway through the first quarter. The Lady Spartans recorded just a pair of field goals in that quarter, but their own league-leading defense kept the contest close at 12-5 through ten minutes.

Julia Winnick's trey got the STAC offense going in the second, and Jenna Erickson capped a 10-2 run from downtown to draw even at 20-20. While the Lady Spartans tied the game on two occasions, Bridgeport never trailed entering the halftime break, holding a tenuous 27-24 edge.

Alex Bertolino's three on the first possession of the third quarter set the tone for the hosts. While Samnell Vonleh quickly answered to put UB back on top at 29-27, STAC's offense sprung to life with a stunning 18-0 run over a seven-minute span, opening a 45-29 lead. That chasm opened to 49-31 in the final minute of the session, but Vonleh's three-point play with time expired drew Bridgeport to within 49-34, setting the stage for a tense fourth quarter.

Another Bertolino trey gave STAC a seemingly-comfortable 52-34 lead with under nine minutes left, but the Purple Knights rallied behind Miley, drawing closer on a 9-0 run to make the tally 52-43 with under five to play. After a Kaitlyn McCue bucket, Bridgeport scored the next seven, drawing to 54-50 with 2:23 still to play.

Samantha Burden converted a pair of free throws, but Miley's lay-up with 1:43 left made it a one-possession game at 56-53. That was to be the visitors' last gasp, however, as STAC hit six-of-eight foul shots in the waning seconds to pull away.

Bertolino led three Lady Spartans in double-figures with 14 points including 4-of-6 from beyond the arc, with Erickson adding 12 and Burden 10. Miley led all scorers, pacing the Purple Knights with a 19-point effort.

In Wednesday's other quarter-final contest, #5 NYIT upended #4 Roberts Wesleyan, 80-69. The Bears will play at noon Saturday against the top seeded regular season champions from Queens College.