The St. Thomas Aquinas College women's basketball team rode a strong second half to a 60-47 triumph in an East Coast Conference showdown at New York Institute of Technology. With the win, the Spartans not only improved to 20-3 overall, but their 11-1 ECC mark opens a two-game lead over Daemen in the conference standings, and clinched an ECC Conference Tournament berth with six games remaining, assuring that St. Thomas Aquinas will have an opportunity to defend the program's first ECC Championship of a year ago.
In a defensive struggle early, NYIT grabbed a 6-2 lead after four minutes of play and a series of lead changes resulted in the Spartans holding a 17-15 lead after one quarter on a late Ruth Adams jumper. Spanning the first two quarters, the Bears went scoreless over a span of nearly seven minutes, though STAC scored just five in its own right to open a 20-15 edge. Tech emerged from hibernation with an 8-0 run to grab a three-point lead, but Alexa Huertas scored in the final seconds to draw the visitors into a 27-27 tie at intermission.
Zoe Amalbert struck quickly to give the Bears a three-point lead, but Zaria Thomas scored seven points as STAC exploded on a 17-2 run to open a 44-32 lead with two minutes left in the third, and retaining a 49-39 advantage heading into the final stanza. That proved to be all the Spartans would need as their stingy defense held Tech to just two points over the first 9:29 of the last quarter, opening the gap to as many as 16 in cruising to the win, which clinched a season-series sweep.
Zaria Thomas led all scorers with 17 for STAC, Missy Sadler came off the bench to net 12, and Emily Preston had 10 points and 10 boards. Shalie Frierson led the Bears with 11 and Ketsia Athias topped all rebounders with 14 on the evening.
The Spartans will now play four of their final six regular-season games at home, starting with another big conference match-up - vs. LIU Post - this Saturday, February 9. The game features a 1:00 pm tip and will be followed by the men's teams squaring off. They will then travel to meet UDC on Wednesday, February 13, before hosting Daemen and Roberts Wesleyan on February 22 and 24, respectively.