The St. Thomas Aquinas College women's basketball team captured an 80-62 East Coast Conference victory over New York Institute of Technology at Aquinas Hall. The Lady Spartans, ranked #4 in the East Region in the first official poll released by the NCAA, improved to 23-3 overall, and 15-1 in ECC play. They remain a half game ahead of LIU Post in the conference standings, and also clinched a first round bye in the ECC Tournament, advancing directly to the semi-finals at Roberts Wesleyan College on Saturday, March 2.
Neither team hit the board in the first two minutes before Nina Vukosavljevic opened the scoring with a three-pointer with 7:53 left in the first quarter. STAC went nearly five minutes without a point but their defense held the deficit to just 6-0 when threes from Julia Winnick and Alex Bertolino keyed a 12-0 run. The tightly-played quarter ended with the hosts holding a 12-10 advantage.
Madison Strippoli's three-point play gave the Bears an 18-16 edge, but Adiya Henderson hit a pair of baskets in a 10-0 Lady Spartans answer to open a 26-18 gap. NYIT drew to within four, but a pair of Jenna Erickson free throws closed the half with a 38-31 STAC lead. Maia Hood's layup narrowed the deficit to 42-39, but Emily Preston answered with three hoops for St. Thomas Aquinas to make the score 63-54 with ten minutes to play.
Erickson and Winnik opened the scoring with back-to-back threes in the final session, giving the Lady Spartans a 15-point lead. Henderson added two more field goals, and by the time Hanna Ghonim scored the first Bears' points of the quarter with 5:03 left, STAC had opened a decisive 73-56 chasm, holding NYIT to just eight points in the quarter to seal the decision.
In posting her game-high 26 points, Erickson shot 10-of-15 from the floor while dishing out eight assists. Winnik chipped in with 17 including 5-for-9 from behind the arc, Henderson 14, and Preston 12 to pace the STAC attack. Hood was the lone scorer in double-figures with 12 points.
The Lady Spartans will travel to LIU Post on Saturday, February 17, for a contest that will likely determine the ECC Regular-Season Championship. They will then be off until Saturday, February 24, closing out the regular-season with a Senior Day match-up with the University of the District of Columbia. The 1:00 pm start is the front end of a double-header, with the men's game to follow.