The St. Thomas Aquinas College women's basketball team fell short in a 63-52 defeat at the hands of top-seeded Stonehill College at the NCAA Division II Tournament East Region semi-finals in Easton, MA. The Lady Spartans' historic season ends with a 27-5 record and the first NCAA Tournament victory in program history. Stonehill improves to 28-4 and advances to Monday night's East Regional Final against #3 seed University of the Sciences.
As expected, defense was the theme of the night for both teams, with Stonehill leading by as many as five points before settling for a 14-10 advantage after one quarter. Courtney Walsh hit a three-pointer to cap a 9-4 burst, giving the Skyhawks a 23-14 advantage, but Emily Preston hit a pair of jumpers to trim the gap to 23-20, and a late elbow jumper from Skye Burris brought the Lady Spartans to within 26-25 at halftime.
Alex Bertolino's long range jumper gave STAC a 28-26 lead early in the third, but Walsh answered with another trey of her own, touching off a 7-0 Stonehill run. A pair of free throws from Preston and Bertolino narrowed the deficit to 33-32 midway through the quarter. The Lady Spartans held tough throughout, trailing 37-35 with under three minutes to play, but Kelly Martin made a jumper and Walsh struck again from beyond the arc, allowing the hosts to open a 44-35 gap by quarter's end.
Stonehill carried that momentum into the final session, leading by as many as 15, but a frantic 9-1 run gave STAC hope with the margin standing at 53-46 with just under three minutes to play. With 2:01 left, Kelly came through with a 3-point play and the Skyhawks closed out the win to advance.
Bertolino led the Lady Spartans with 16 points, Adiya Henderson was tenacious with 12 points and 11 boards, Emily Preston added 11 points and 10 caroms, and Jenna Erickson contributed nine points, in what was the final career appearance of standout seniors Erickson, Bertolino and Henderson. Walsh was outstanding for Stonehill with a game-high 22 points, with Martin adding 17.