The St. Thomas Aquinas College women's basketball team closed strong for a 75-61 decision in an East Coast Conference battle at New York Institute of Technology. The Lady Spartans, ranked #4 in this week's East Region poll, are now 15-2 and a perfect 7-0 in conference play, with NYIT falling to 10-8, 4-4.
Entering the game with an impressive 8-2 road record, the Lady Spartans jumped on top early, with Julia Winnick's three-pointer capping a game-opening 8-0 run over the first two minutes. Chelsea Murphy's free throws in the final minute opened up a 21-4 margin after one quarter. A three from Jenna Erickson opened the gap to 30-10, but the Bears slowly shifted the momentum.
After trimming the gap to 37-19 with just under four minutes left in the half, Shalie Frierson's late hoop ended an 11-1 run to draw the deficit to 38-30 at the break. NYIT continued to chip away into the third with back-to-back treys from Frierson and Maia Hood closing in on STAC, 50-49 with 2:23 left in the third. STAC held a 54-52 lead heading into the final quarter and was able to hold the hosts to just 9 points down the stretch.
With the game on the line, the Lady Spartans defense clamped down, allowing only two field goals total in the fourth quarter. A 19-4 burst that spanned most of the quarter was enough for the visitors to pull away and secure the win.
Erickson led all scorers with 17 points, Adiya Henderson recorded 13 points and nine rebounds, Emily Preston chipped in 11 and a game-high 11 boards, and Alex Bertolino scored 10 in the balanced attack. Hood and Nina Vukosavlijelic posted 14 each to lead NYIT.
The Lady Spartans now play eight of their final 11 regular-season games at home, starting with Saturday's showdown against LIU Post. The two undefeated teams in the ECC square off at Aquinas Hall in a 1:00 pm start on January 20, with the men's teams to follow.