The St. Thomas Aquinas College women's basketball team takes on LIU Post on Saturday, March 9 at 12:00 noon in the semi-finals of the East Coast Conference Women's Basketball Tournament at the University of Bridgeport.
The Teams - St. Thomas Aquinas College - The #1 seeded Spartans look to continue their run of tremendous success which includes earning the program's first ECC Tournament Championship one year ago, and following it with this season's Regular Season Championship. STAC comes in with an impressive 26-3 overall record, 17-1 in ECC play, and enters the post-season with the longest win streak in the conference at 10 straight. The Spartans have utilized depth and a balanced attack, led by Ruth Adams (11.1 ppg), Emily Preston (10.9 ppg), Zaria Thomas (10.4), Julia Winnik (9.0) and Missy Sadler (8.9) spreading out the offense. Though they do not have a scorer in the ECC's top 10, they lead the loop in team scoring (70.9 ppg), while standing second in team defense (57.3 ppg).
The Teams - LIU Post - Despite playing in their final Division II season, the Pioneers were predicted to finish first in the preseason coaches poll and got off to a strong start before settling for an 18-11 overall record and 10-8 in ECC play. LIUP is still very much a side to be reckoned with after winning the Regular Season Championship a year ago (they were defeated in the semi-finals by NYIT), having won their last three including Wednesday's 74-70 first round victory over Roberts Wesleyan. Mikaiya Moore came up big with a season-high 20 points to lead the Pioneers, with Taylah Hudson and leading scorer Sasha Patterson (15.6 ppg) chipping in a dozen each.
NCAA Rankings - For the third straight week, St. Thomas Aquinas held the #5 slot in the official NCAA East Region rankings, behind #1 USciences, #2 Bentley, #3 Jefferson, and #4 LeMoyne. Eight teams from the East will qualify for the 64-team field at the NCAA Division II Tournament, with automatic bids being earned by champions from the ECC, Northeast-10, and Central Atlantic Collegiate conferences, and the other five awarded on an at-large basis. The Spartans remain in strong position to make their second straight NCAA appearance, while LIU Post would likely need to win the tournament championship to advance in the post-season.
Season Series (STAC wins, 2-0) - Jan 12, 2019, STAC 66, @LIUP 64 - The first battle of the two powerhouses more than lived up to its billing, at the Spartans invaded Pratt Recreation Center as the lone remaining unbeaten team in the ECC. STAC led for much of the afternoon but Post rallied to take a fourth-quarter lead, setting the stage for a memorable finish as Ruth Adams' driving floater at the buzzer snapped the tie and gave the Spartans the win.
Feb 9, 2019 - @ STAC 85, LIUP 65 - By the time the teams took to the Aquinas Hall hardwood for the rematch, the Spartans were in the midst of their current 10-game win streak while Post was struggling to find its footing. STAC was firing from the outset, grabbing an 11-point lead after one quarter and taking a 47-22 advantage into halftime to secure the win. Missy Sadler led five Spartans in double-figures with 20 points, with Zaria Thomas adding 15. Sasha Patterson set the tone for the Pioneers with 15 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
What's Next? - The winner of this game will advance to the ECC Tournament Final on Sunday, March 10, at 12:00 noon at Bridgeport. They will take on the winner of the Saturday 2:30 semi-final between #2 Daemen and #3 NYIT. Like STAC, Daemen earned a bye into the semis while NYIT advanced with a 70-57 home victory over Bridgeport on Wednesday night.