The St. Thomas Aquinas College women's basketball team takes on top-seeded host Stonehill College at the NCAA Division II Tournament East Regional Semi-final Saturday night at 7:30 pm.
How They Got Here - The Lady Spartans, ECC Tournament Champions, won their first ever NCAA Tournament game with a 61-45 triumph over #5 Caldwell on Friday night. STAC jumped to an early lead but the contest remained in doubt until the Lady Spartans' stifling defense held the Cougars to just four points in the third quarter to pull away. Adiya Henderson led the way with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Jenna Erickson added 11 points.
Despite falling short in the NE-10 Tournament, Stonehill soared into the regional as the #1 seed and host, and they kept that momentum going with a dominant 70-45 victory over #8 Southern Connecticut on Friday. Kelly Martin posted 16 points and Maty Diabate added 13 for the balanced Skyhawks, who had 10 different players on the scoresheet.
The Match-up - Though these programs have not squared off previously during the 10 years that Kim Lusk has served as Head Coach of the Lady Spartans, that doesn't mean there isn't some history involved. In fact, STAC could be looking for revenge that's 15 years in the making, as the program's lone trip to the NCAA Tournament resulted in an 83-49 Stonehill victory way back in 2003.
Defense Turns Up the Heat, pt. 1 – STAC has now allowed just 137 points in three postseason games for an average of 45.7 per game, a testament to their tenacious defense throughout the season. The Lady Spartans have allowed 53.1 points per game, currently ranked #2 in the Nation in the NCAA Division II ranks.
Defense Turns Up the Heat, pt. 2 – With each of their three playoff appearances hanging in the balance, St. Thomas Aquinas has played its best defense right after intermission. Amazingly, the Lady Spartans have yielded a combined total of just 20 points in the third quarter over those three victories.
Erickson Leads the Charge– Aside from her immense talent, Erickson has been incredibly durable during her four years at STAC. She has played in all 121 Lady Spartans games since she joined the program, starting in 119 of them. Entering tonight’s game she has started 69 straight, with her last non-start on February 2, 2016. Named as this season’s ECC Player of the Year, Jenna has recorded 1,817 career points and is second on the ECC All-Time list in three-point field goals made. Interestingly, that record was eclipsed by the current holder, Lucy Covley of Roberts Wesleyan College, meaning that Erickson passed the record that was held entering this season.
Players to Watch - In addition to Erickson, STAC is led by Adiya Henderson, who was named Defensive Player of the Year in addition to her Second Team All-ECC status. Kelly Martin (16.0 ppg, 5.0 apg) was named Player of the Year in the Northeast-10, Samantha Hyslip and Courtney Walsh garnered Second Team kudos, and Elizabeth Grip was named the NE-10's Defensive Player of the Year. To top it off, Tricia Brown was named the conference's Coach of the Year for the fourth time in her career.
2018 NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN'S BASKETBALL EAST REGION
1)– Stonehill College (NE10 - at large bid)
2) – Bentley University (NE10 Tournament Champs -automatic bid)
3) – University of the Sciences in Philadephia (CACC Tournament Champs - automatic bid)
4) – St Thomas Aquinas College (ECC Tournament Champs - automatic bid)
5) – Caldwell University (CACC - at large bid)
6) – LIU Post (ECC - at large bid)
7) – Jefferson University (CACC - at large bid)
8) - Southern Connecticut State University (NE10 - at large bid)
NCAA DIVISION II EAST REGIONAL SCHEDULE
QUARTERFINALS – FRIDAY, MARCH 9, 2018
#3 USciences (29-3) 61, #6 LIU Post (22-8) 50
#2 Bentley (28-3) 71, #7 Jefferson (26-6) 66
#1 Stonehill (27-3) 70, #8 Southern Connecticut State 45
#4 St. Thomas Aquinas (27-4) 61, #5 Caldwell 45
SEMIFINALS – SATURDAY, MARCH 10, 2018
#3 USciences vs. #2 Bentley, 5:00 pm
#4 St. Thomas Aquinas vs. #1 Stonehill, 7:30 pm
CHAMPIONSHIP – MONDAY, MARCH 12, 2014, 7 p.m.