The St. Thomas Aquinas College women's basketball team captured a 66-64 victory in an East Coast Conference showdown at LIU Post. STAC has now won five straight and 11-of-12 overall, improving to 14-2 on the season while remaining atop the conference standings with a perfect 5-0 mark. The Pioneers fell to their fourth straight defeat and stand at 11-5, 4-2. Barring an unlikely first-round playoff matchup, this will be the final meeting of the two rival programs at Pratt Recreation Center, as LIU Post's program will cease operations at the close of the season.
Post scored the afternoon's first basket but Chelsea Murphy's three capped a 7-2 Spartans answer to open a 12-6 edge. The Pioneers fought back with a 9-2 answer of their own, briefly taking the lead at 18-17 on a pair of Ja'lyn Adams free throws, but Ruth Adams scored late to give the visitors a one-point advantage through 10 minutes.
Jumpers by Murphy and Adams gave STAC its largest lead to that point at 34-25, and a foul shot from Kellyann Averill made the gap 37-29 at halftime. Julia Winnik opened the third quarter with a three pointer, but the 11-point advantage was far from safe as Sasha Patterson scored her team's next 11 points while cutting the margin to 44-42 midway through the session. The Spartans extended the lead back to seven before settling for a 50-45 tally entering the final quarter.
St. Thomas Aquinas held the narrow lead they had enjoyed for most of the afternoon until the hosts put together an 8-0 run to grab a 58-56 lead on a Robyn Francis three-pointer with 5:48 remaining. Melissa Sadler tied the game on a jumper but Francis answered with two from the line to put Post back on top until Zaria Thomas gave the Spartans a 61-60 edge with a trey with 4:00 to play. Taylah Hudson put the Pioneers back on top with a pair, and Emily Preston hit one-of-two from the stripe, amounting to a 62-62 deadlock with 1:23 left, setting the stage for a spectacular finish.
A tenacious defensive stand led to Winnik pouncing on a loose ball, with the Spartans calling time out with 1:09 left. A precision offensive set saw Murphy hit Winnik on the right flank and her pretty bounce pass found a cutting Preston, whose artistic layup make the score 64-62 with 55 on the clock. Once again, STAC turned up the defense, forcing Patterson into a tough miss, but she grabbed her own carom and was fouled by Adams, sinking two to once again draw the score even with 30.8 to go.
With the clock winding down, the Spartan offense spread the floor, leaving the ball in Adams' hands. After quick options to Preston and Winnik were unavailable, Adams sliced through the paint, made a quick fake right and spun left to bury a 10-foot fallaway jumper in the final second. While the final buzzer sounded, officials put 0.8 on the clock, though the Pioneers were unable to release a final shot.
See Ruth Adams beat the buzzer, clinch the Spartan victory below.
Adams was the clear hero for STAC, coming off the bench to net a team-high 16 points to go with seven rebounds, with Thomas posting 13 and Sadler 11. Patterson was a force for Post, recording game highs of 26 points and 14 rebounds.
The Spartans will carry their winning streak back to Aquinas Hall on Wednesday, January 16, hosting Queens College an another ECC tilt. Double-header action starts at 5:30 pm, followed by the men's game at approximately 7:30.