#6/7 St. Thomas Aquinas Holds Off Men's Basketball, 79-73

Bess scored 14 of his team-high 17 points in the second half to help spark the Skyhawks comeback effort. (PHOTO BY Mike Broglio/SportsPix)

Reyes posts double-double as Spartans hold off late Skyhawks rally

SPARKILL, N.Y. (November 27, 2016) – Saint Thomas Aquinas College, ranked No. 6 in this week's National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Division II poll and No. 7 in the D2SIDA Top 25 media poll, held off a late rally from Stonehill College, receiving votes in the NABC poll and ranked No. 6 in the D2SIDA East Region poll, for a 79-73 victory in non-conference men's basketball action at Aquinas Hall Gymnasium this afternoon.

Junior Justin Reyes (Haverhill, Massachusetts/Whittier Tech) kept St. Thomas Aquinas perfect on the young season with a double-double effort of a game-high 27 points and 14 rebounds on 8-of-11 shooting, converting 11-of-14 free-throws, to go with two assists. He scored four of the Spartans final six points in the final minute after Stonehill had fought back from a ten point deficit (70-60) with 4:37 to play to knot the score at 73 apiece with 1:09 left.

Senior Chaz Watler (Brooklyn, New York/Archbishop Molloy) and sophomore Jonathan Lawton (Williamstown, New Jersey/Friends' Central) each added 13 points for STAC, which finished shooting 48.3-percent from the field (29-for-60), including 53.6% (15-28) in the second half. Watler was 4-for-11 from the floor, including 2-for-4 from three-point range, converting 3-of-4 free-throws with three rebounds and two steals, while Lawton chipped in four steals and two boards. Junior Shaquille McFarlan (Mesic, North Carolina/St. Anthony's) contributed eight points on 4-of-9 shooting, five rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Junior Isaiah Bess (LaGrange, Maine/Hampden Academy) led a balanced Stonehill effort by scoring 14 of his team-high 17 points in the second half on 6-of-9 shooting, including 5-for-8 from three-point distance, with three rebounds, an assist and steal. Senior preseason All-American Ryan Logan (Fredericktown, Ohio/Fredericktown) added 13 points, connecting on 2-of-4 threes, with four rebounds and four steals, while junior Joel Berroa (Lawrence, Massachusetts/Bridgton Academy) added 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including 2-for-5 from deep, and six rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench. Junior KJ Lee (Huntington Station, New York/Long Island Lutheran) chipped in ten points on 4-of-7 shooting, a career-high seven assists and two assists.

Stonehill shot 45.8-percent from the field (27-for-59), including 54.8% (17-31) in the second half, connecting on 13-of-35 (37.1%) three-pointers. The Skyhawks held a 33-32 rebounding edge, but was outscored 10-4 in second chance points and STAC turned an 18-9 turnover differential into a 20-5 advantage in points off turnovers. The Spartans also outscored the Skyhawks 16-6 at the free-throw line, converting 16-of-20 attempts (80%), compared to 6-for-8 (75%) for the guests.

Berroa netted 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting off the bench for the Skyhawks. (PHOTO BY Mike Broglio/SportsPix)

Stonehill trailed by a game-high 11 points (61-50) after a McFarlan jumper with 9:06 remaining. The Skyhawks deficit was still ten (70-60) when Reyes made one of two at the free-throw line with 4:37 left, before the visitors used a 13-3 run to pull even (73-73) after a Bess three-pointer with 69-seconds to play. STAC closed out the game from there, with Reyes putting the Spartans in front for good with a jumper with 44-seconds remaining after a Stonehill turnover. The Spartans followed by converting all four free-throw attempts from there, with two from Watler after a Skyhawks turnover and two from Reyes after the visitors missed two three-point attempts on their next possession.

St. Thomas Aquinas jumped out to a quick nine point lead (12-3) five minutes into the game, but Stonehill rallied with 14 of the next 20 points to close within one (18-17) after a Logan jumper midway through the half. Watler answered with a three-pointer for STAC, but the Skyhawks reeled off eight straight to take the lead (25-21) after a three by senior Jim Walsh (Manasquan, New Jersey/Manasquan) with 7:13 left in the half. The Spartans drew even (25-25) after a Lawton jumper with 4:37 to go and the teams battled back and forth until STAC scored the final five points of the half to take the lead (34-29) into the lockerroom on a Watler triple.

STAC scored the first three points of the second half to open an eight point lead (38-29) after a jumper from junior James Mitchell (Washington, D.C./St. John's College) a minute in. The Spartans lead reached double figures (45-35) for the first time on a Watler jumper four minutes into the second before Stonehill rallied with three-straight threes, including two from Berroa, to close within a point (45-44) after a Bess triple with 14:27 on the clock. The Spartans wouldn't relinquish the lead, methodically working their advantage to the game-high 11 (61-50) after the McFarlan jumper with nine minutes to go.

Stonehill (3-3, 1-2 NE-10), which has dropped back to back games for the first time since the final two (postseason) games of the 2014-15 season, looks to bounce back on Wednesday at Franklin Pierce University for a Northeast-10 Conference matchup at 7:30 p.m. The Skyhawks return home on Wednesday, December 7, to host Southern New Hampshire University at 7:30 p.m. St. Thomas Aquinas (5-0, 0-0 ECC) hosts Roberts Wesleyan College on Wednesday for its East Coast Conference opener at 7:30 p.m.

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