Just three games comprised the regional slate on Thursday, but the marquee match-up, featuring the top two teams in the East Coast Conference – and two hottest teams in the region – did not live up to the hype:
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS 86 DAEMEN 62
Empowered by a ferocious full-court press, St. Thomas Aquinas pounced early and often, destroying Daemen at Aquinas Hall for its region-best – and program NCAA-era record - 13th straight win. The Spartans, who now are two games in front of its guests and Bridgeport in the loss column at the top the ECC ladder, reeled off the first 12 points and never relented, opening up eye-popping leads of 27-5 and 43-10 before setting for a 51-22 bulge at the break. James Mitchell and Justin Reyes (6-8 FG, seven rebounds) each recorded 15 points to lead the balanced STAC attack, with Jules de Courtenay (14 points, 7-10 FG, nine rebounds) and Shaq McFarlan (10 points, career-high nine assists) just missing double-doubles in limited minutes. The Wildcats – who had won nine in a row dating back to their home loss against the same St. Thomas squad – were never able to make it a game over the final 20 minutes, coming as close as 23 points in the waning moments after the lead had crested at 64-28 on a Mitchell jumper early in the second. Torrence Dyck was the lone double-figure scorer for the visitors with 12 points – about half of his season average – as Daemen was outshot, 50%-35% including 55%-21% in the opening period. St. Thomas dominated the glass (47-31) and the paint (50-22), while handing out nearly twice as many assists (21-11). The Wildcats’ lone statistical advantage was at the foul line, where they attempted more than three times as many shots (22-35 to 7-11).
MERCY 88 ROBERTS WESLEYAN 83
Across the Hudson River in Dobbs Ferry, all five starters reached twin figures and Mercy edged Roberts Wesleyan for its fifth straight victory, moving two-and-a-half games up on idle Dowling in the race for the league’s final playoff spot… and a half-game behind LIU Post for fifth. Four was the largest differential of the first half, which featured no fewer than six ties and 15 lead changes. The Mavericks still found themselves up four (63-59) approaching the midway mark of the second stanza when Tyseem Lyles (19 points, eight rebounds) bookended an 8-0 run with a pair of lay-ups, giving the hosts their largest advantage of the night: 71-59 with 8:42 to play. The Redhawks – who were paced by Malik Dare’s 16 points (7-10 FG) and 10 rebounds – rallied and crept within 84-83 after a dunk by Tyrel Dixon (six points, six boards) with 15 seconds left. Raphael Jennings (13 points) was fouled five seconds later and converted both of his attempts, then after Mike Stone’s potential tying 3-pointer rimmed out, Jennings clinched the contest with two more freebies. Will Robinson registered 17 points and seven rebounds for the winners who also saw K.J. Rose flirt with a triple-double (13 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists) and Jason Quijada pitch in with 11 points (3-4 from long range) as the Mavs moved two games above the .500 mark for the first time in February since 1993. Stone (four assists) notched 16 points – including the 1,000th of his career – for Roberts, which also landed Zack Panebianco (14 points) and Dwayne Roberts (personal-best 13 off the bench) in double digits. Both teams shot it well (MC 50%, RWC 48%) but Mercy feasted on second chances to the tune of 16-0. The five-game win streak is the school’s longest since the 2004-05 season.
DOMINICAN 69 GOLDEY-BEACOM 63
It was worth the wait for Dominican, which won a snowed-out makeup game over Goldey-Beacom in the first leg of a two-game Delaware trip. Gerrel Irvin amassed career highs of 31 points (12-17 FG) and 16 rebounds for the Chargers, who are now tied with Post for second place in the CACC North. After constructing a 33-18 lead, Dominican was outscored 26-7 spanning the halves as the Lightning pulled ahead 44-40 following a go-ahead triple and two successive free throws by Corey Taite (11 points, five assists) with 13:14 to go. Five more lead changes ensued, the last one manifesting itself in a go-ahead three by reserve rookie guard Ethan Smith Jr. (11 points) with 8:25 remaining, putting the visitors back on top for good at 53-50. Goldey stayed in touch down the stretch, however, narrowing the gap to two on a couple of occasions, the last time at 65-63 after a Shakeem Wilson foul shot with 8.8 seconds on the clock. Irvin was fouled one second later and canned the icing tosses for Dominican, which was the superior shooting team (54%-43%), dished out nearly twice as many assists (17-9) and outscored the Lightning 28-16 off turnovers despite both teams committing the same number of miscues (15). Wilson finished with 14 points for the Lightning, who also received a 13-point, nine-rebound effort from Algeron Torrence in falling one game behind Chestnut Hill for the final playoff berth in the South.