The St. Thomas Aquinas College women's basketball team clinched its second East Coast Conference Regular-Season Championship with a 63-53 Victory at Queens College. The win was the ninth straight for the Spartans, who improve to 25-3 overall and 16-1 in the ECC, with Queens falling to 6-19, 5-12. STAC has clinched the top seed for the ECC Tournament, where they will defend last season's championship.
Earlier in the day, the Spartans retained the #5 slot in the official NCAA Division II East rankings, to go with their #24 rank in the D2SIDA national poll. USciences retains the top position in this week's regional ranking, with Bentley at #2, Jefferson at #3, and LeMoyne at #4. Eight teams in the East qualify for the national tournament, with automatic bids issued to tournament champs from the ECC, Northeast-10, and CACC, and the other five awarded on an at-large basis.
Zaria Thomas continued to wield the hot hand and set the tempo with a three-pointer just 15 seconds after tipoff. Beth Bonin's three brought Queens to within 14-10 with 2:01 left in the first quarter, but Ruth Adams scored the final four points in an 8-0 run, opening a 22-10 gap after 10 minutes. Julia Winnik opened the scoring in the second with a trey, and the Spartans were off to the races, holding Queens to just three points over six minutes in opening a 30-13 advantage. Thomas struck twice more from deep in a 43 second span and the visitors left the floor with a commanding 38-17 cushion at intermission.
That lead remained at a comfortable 48-32 through three quarters, but the Knights made a late push as Nora Gabel hit a pair of treys as part of a 10-0 run to close the contest to 54-46 with 2:44 left. Winnik hit a three with 1:46 to all but dash any chance for a comeback as STAC hit four from the line in the final minute to close out the win.
Thomas and Winnik each hit four threes to tie for game-high with 14 points each, with Ruth Adams and Emily Preston adding 10 each, and Preston amassing a game-high 12 rebounds. Gabel and Lakeisha Officer led the way for the hosts with 11 apiece.
The regular-season closes with Senior Day at Aquinas Hall on Saturday, March 2, as the Spartans host Molloy for a 1:00 pm start. The ECC Tournament will begin on Wednesday, March 6, at highest seeds, before shifting to the University of Bridgeport on Saturday March 9 and Sunday, March 10. As the top seed, STAC will play its first playoff game in the Saturday semi-finals at 12:00 noon, with opponent to be determined. STAC, Daemen, and NYIT have secured the first three seeds respectively, with LIU Post, Roberts Wesleyan and Bridgeport rounding out the six-team field (final three seeds to be determined).