The St. Thomas Aquinas College women's basketball team completed a weekend sweep with a thrilling 67-62 victory over Daemen College in an East Coast Conference tilt at Aquinas Hall. The Spartans improve to 9-1 overall and 2-0 in ECC play, while Daemen drops to 8-3, 2-1.
In a battle of regionally-ranked teams, STAC was dominant at the outset, forcing four turnovers in the first three minutes of play, with Zaria Thomas dropping seven points and Ruth Adams adding four as part of a stunning 15-0 lead midway through the quarter. Jordan Heinold's three-pointer put the Wildcats on the board with 4:53 left, but that would be her team's only points over nearly the first eight minutes as the Spartans held a 17-3 advantage.
Daemen finally found its footing, however, ending the first with a 10-3 run to narrow the deficit to 20-13. The hosts' offense struggled early in the second as their once-wide gap was closed to 22-19, but a Sarah Scerbek three-point play opened the lead back to 27-20. While the Wildcats closed to within two at 27-25, the Spartans again had the answer as a Scerbek jumper closed the half with a 35-27 STAC advantage.
St. Thomas Aquinas regained a 10-point margin at 40-30 on a three by Lexi Huertas but Daemen again scratched, closing to 46-45 on a Tiara Filbert jumper with 2:40 left in the third. Adams nailed a jumper and Thomas struck from deep in response, but Caroline White's hoop drew the affair to 51-47 with one quarter to play.
Back-to-back jumpers from Missy Sadler and Emily Preston opened a seemingly-safe 59-50 cushion with three minutes left, but the Wildcats had one more push as treys from Heinold and White made the tally 61-57 with just over two minutes on the clock. Ashli Jeune hit four straight free throws as Daemen drew even at 61-61 for the first time since the game's first possession, with 1:39 still to play. Preston hit one-of-two from the line and Sadler drained a pair while Heinold hit one-of-two to make the score 64-62 in what became a very lengthy final minute of regulation.
With time winding down, Huertas exploded down the right baseline for a running lay-up to extend the gap to four with 16 seconds left to seal the deal. Thomas led the STAC offense with 17 points, with Adams adding 15 (to go with nine rebounds) and Sadler posting 14. Jeune recorded a game-high 22 for the Wildcats, with Heinold contributing 16.
The Spartans will finish the 2019 calendar year on the road, traveling to Southern Connecticut State University for a big regional battle on Wednesday, December 18 before returning to ECC play at Mercy College on Saturday, December 21. The 2020 portion of the slate starts at Aquinas Hall as the University of the Sciences visits for another big regional test on Friday, January 3.