The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team held off a late charge for a 69-58 victory in a non-conference battle at Bloomfield College. The Spartans, ranked #1 in the East Region in the most recent D2SIDA poll, improved to 11-2 while Bloomfield slipped to 6-7.
With the holiday break in the rearview, the contest started on an unusual note as Bloomfield was tagged with an administrative technical foul for not having functioning end of period lights around their backboards, with Lou Griffith's free throw giving STAC the 1-0 lead before any time had elapsed. The Spartans carried the play early as a Demetre Roberts three-pointer opened an 11-4 lead with 15:21 to play in the first half. The lengthy layoff showed on both teams as they proceeded to go the next four minutes without a point being registered.
Kevin Lynch struck from deep to open a 16-6 advantage and the lead reached as much as 25-13 on a pair of Lynch free throws before STAC carried a 26-19 advantage through 20 minutes. The Bears hit their stride first coming out of the locker room as Safee Abdus-Sabur registered eight points as a 15-8 burst narrowed the gap to 35-34 with 13:48 to play. Roberts and Caraballo hit consecutive buckets to open some breathing room and a "Play of the Year" candidate put the momentum solidly on the visitors' side.
Grant Singleton's baseline drive was blocked off the backboard but Sekou Cisse was on the spot, snagging the carom well over the rim and completing a thunderous dunk in one motion as part of a 10-2 run, giving STAC a 45-36 advantage midway through the half. The Bears made one more late push as Tony Godwin's three capped a 6-0 run to make the tally 53-51 with 4:25 left.
STAC showed tremendous poise down the stretch, however, as Cisse and Godwin exchanged scores to keep it a two-point game. Roberts proceeded to hit a pair and Singleton soared for a big steal in the backcourt and his layup make the tally 59-53. After a Bloomfield miss, Cisse sealed the victory with two straight hoops as his team started the new year on a good foot.
Roberts led all scorers with 22 with Caraballo and Cisse adding 14 each to pace St. Thomas Aquinas, while Abdus-Sabur led the hosts with 17. In something of a statistical rarity, STAC led the affair for every second of the 40 minutes, due to the technical shot before the opening tip.
The Spartans are right back on the road, traveling to the College of Saint Rose for a 2:00 pm showdown on Saturday, January 4, before returning to Aquinas Hall for another regional showdown, hosting the University of New Haven at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, January 8.