The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team won its East Coast Conference opener, a tough 83-73 decision at Daemen College. The Spartans have now won three straight and eight-of-nine overall to improve to 8-3 overall, with Daemen falling to 4-4.
Propelled by Reyes' offense, STAC shook off an early 15-5 deficit, cutting the gap to 39-38 at halftime before pulling away in the final minutes. James Mitchell added 14 points and Kam Murrell recorded 12 in the victory, while Deion Hamilton paced a trio of Wildcats in double-figures with 23 points.
Hamilton's hoop from long range gave the Wildcats a 5-0 lead just 80 seconds into the game, and by the time Jeff Roband added another trey, the hosts had built their 10-point lead after five minutes of play. The Spartans then held Daemen without a field goal for over five minutes, and a Zachary Rzwenicki three followed by a Reyes dunk capped a 12-2 run, drawing the game even at 17-17 midway through the session.
Daemen rebounded, however, jumping back in front by scoring the next eight points, only to see Reyes score five straight points in giving the Spartans their first lead of the night at 30-28 with just over five minutes in the half. The lead would change hands until Reyes put the visitors back on top in the final minute, answered by an Aleks Miljenovic three to put the Wildcats back on top at the break.
Over the first four minutes of the second half, the lead changed hands six times and the game was tied twice. With the hosts enjoying a 52-49 lead, STAC's defense clamped down again, keeping Daemen off the board for over five minutes while an 11-0 run putting them on top by eight just past the midway point of the second half.
After another Hamilton jumper closed the gap to 69-67 with 3:38 left, Mitchell hit a jumper and Murrell hit from long range, and the Spartans drained nine of 10 free throws in the final minute to seal the win. Ball control was a major key for STAC, which turned the ball over just six times for the game while forcing 17 Wildcat miscues.
The Spartans conclude their Western New York weekend with a Sunday afternoon ECC affair at Roberts Wesleyan College before traveling to Molloy College on Saturday, December 16. They return to Aquinas Hall for a non-conference battle with Holy Family University on Sunday, December 17 in a 2:00 pm start.