The St. Thomas Aquinas Women's basketball team withstood a late charge to claim a 72-69 East Coast Conference at the University of Bridgeport. The Spartans have now won 10 of their last 11 games overall to improve to 19-3 on the season. Combined with NYIT's loss to Molloy, STAC reclaims sole possession of first place in the ECC with a 10-1 mark and are just one win from clinching a Conference Tournament berth with seven games remaining. Bridgeport slipped to 8-13, 4-7 and stands one game out of a playoff slot.
Ruth Adams pumped in 24 points to lead all scorers as the Spartans trailed by one at halftime, opened an 11-point lead early in the fourth quarter, and held on for the win. Briana Stoddart hit some big shots down the stretch to lead the Purple Knights with 23.
A tightly-contested first quarter saw neither team gain a lead in excess of three points before Chelsea Murphy's last-second bucket gave the Spartans a 15-14 lead after 10 minutes. STAC's offense struggled in the second and Stoddert's three-pointer capped off a 7-2 burst, giving Bridgeport a 27-20 advantage with 3:52 left in the half. Once again, the Spartans would tally in the final second of a quarter, with Julia Winnik's late score narrowing the gap to 27-26 at intermission.
Bridgeport retained a lead until Adams took charge, recording eight points in a 10-2 run to put the visitors on top at 40-36. The theme of beating the clock continued as Missy Sadler converted in the waning seconds to give the Spartans a 47-43 edge entering the final session. Zaria Thomas caught fire, reeling off seven straight points as STAC opened the fourth with a 10-3 burst, extending the largest lead of the afternoon to 57-46.
STAC's lead remained a seemingly-comfortable 64-55 with under four minutes to go, but Stoddart converted consecutive treys in a span of 18 seconds to quickly close the score to 64-61 with 3:14 left. Though a pair of Murphy free throws made the score 68-61, the Purple Knights as three-pointers from NK Ilang and Stoddart left the Spartans with a 70-69 advantage with 22 seconds on the clock. Adams closed her stellar day with a pair from the line and a steal in the final seconds, preventing UB from getting of an attempt at a game-tying shot.
Sadler (12), Murphy (12) and Thomas (10) added to STAC's points parade, with Adams being a force on the boards as well with a game-high 11 rebounds. St. Thomas Aquinas turned the ball over just eight times on the game while shooting a solid 23-29 (79%) from the stripe.
The Spartans have a big week on tap, traveling to face NYIT on Wednesday night, February 6, then squaring off with rival LIU Post at Aquinas Hall on Saturday, February 9.