The St. Thomas Aquinas College women's basketball team remained undefeated in East Coast Conference play with a tough 52-50 victory at Molloy College. The Spartans have now won seven straight and 13-of-14 to improve to 16-2 overall, and are one game ahead of NYIT for first place in the ECC with a 7-0 record. Molloy suffered its seventh straight loss to fall to 6-12, 1-7.
A sluggish start set the tone for the low-scoring affair, with the first points scored on a Kellyann Averill basket nearly two minutes into play. Julia Winnik followed with a three-pointer just over a minute later and Molloy went scoreless for nearly four minutes, but the Lions tied the score at 8-8 on an Ihnacinse Grady three just past the midway point of the first.
STAC settled for a 15-13 lead after 10 minutes but showed life in the second frame, with Zaria Thomas hitting from deep as part of a 9-0 run to give the visitors a 28-17 gap. Molloy wasted little time in responding, however, as Ellen Iversen's jumper in the waning seconds cut the margin to 32-30 at halftime.
Molloy kept that momentum into the third as the Spartans offense stalled and Tyra Harrison's trey keyed an 11-2 run, putting the Lions on top by a 41-34 count with under four minutes left. Missy Sadler's jumper with 21 seconds left was only the third STAC field goal in a six-point quarter, but it closed the margin to 43-38 and set the stage for a fourth quarter rally.
Sadler picked up where she left off, starting the final session with a hoop just 15 seconds in, and Winnik hit a pair from the line to bring the Spartans to within one. STAC's tenacious defense held the Lions to just two points over the first six minutes of the quarter, opening the door for Winnik to give her team a 47-45 lead on a three with 4:24 remaining. Harrison quickly answered for the hosts to tie the score, but Winnik came through again, with another long range jumper opening a 50-47 lead with 2:07 on the clock.
Winnik hit one-of-two from the line to stake STAC to a seemingly-comfortable 51-47 edge with just 49 seconds left, but Melody Prichard struck from deep ten seconds later and it was again a one-point game. Winnik missed from deep but Averill came up with a huge steal, and Molloy put Emily Preston on the line with just 5.7 seconds to go. The sophomore hit one-of-two, and Molloy had a chance but Prichard's potential game-winning three-point attempt at the buzzer sailed off the mark.
In addition to Winnik's game-high 14 points, Zaria Thomas added 12 for STAC while Jenna Silletti paced the Lions with 12. The Lions had a 33-30 rebounding edge while St. Thomas Aquinas forced 17 turnovers while yielding 11.
The Spartans are now off until embarking on their annual Western New York road trip, traveling to face Daemen College on Friday, January 25, and Roberts Wesleyan on Sunday, January 27. They return to Aquinas Hall to host Mercy College on Wednesday, January 30, with double-header action starting at 5:30.