Syracuse, N.Y. - The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team defeated the College of Saint Rose, 69-66 to advance to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight. The Spartans have now won nine straight and 18-of-19 to improve to 28-5 overall, while Saint Rose ends the season with a record of 26-8.
St. Thomas Aquinas enters its first ever Elite Eight, with the Spartans taking the No. 7 seed into their quarter-final matchup with No. 2 Northwest Missouri State on Wednesday, March 22, at 7:00 pm.
Justin Reyes poured in 26 points and was named the Regional's Most Outstanding Player, with Chaz Watler adding 15 to earn All-Regional Team honors. Saint Rose's Tyler Sayre brought his team to the brink of victory, tying for the game high with 26 and also earning All-Regional honors. Earlier in the day, Reyes received word that he is among the 25 finalists for the Bevo Francis Award, given to the best Small College player in the nation.
Originally scheduled for Tuesday night but postponed to Wednesday due to snow in Syracuse, the Spartans started on fire. Reyes opened the scoring with a lay-up and Watler buried a pair of threes as STAC bolted to a 12-2 advantage just 2:15 into the contest.
Saint Rose was successful in slowing the pace from there, holding STAC off the board for over five minutes, though the Spartan defense held the lead at 12-8. Watler hit another trey and Reyes scored his team's last nine points of the first half, leading to a 34-26 advantage at the intermission.
Another three from Watler gave the Spartans their largest lead at 42-30 with 18:13 to play, but the Golden Knights responded, with Mical-Ryan Boyd's three capping a 10-0 run to make the score 42-40 with 13:30 left. Saint Rose took the lead for the first time at 46-45 on a pair of Sayre free throws with 11:10 left, and a Chris Dorgler three was the cap of an overall 21-4 run, giving Saint Rose its biggest lead at 51-46 midway through the half.
Shaq McFarlan stepped up big down the stretch, tying the game on two occasions as the lead changed hands. A Dorgler lay-up put the No. 3 seed on top at 62-60 with 2:07 left, but Reyes answered to knot the score just 26 seconds later, and his foul shot put STAC back on top to stay.
Reyes added a pair of free throws to make the tally 65-62 with 1:04 left, but Dorgler struck again with 38 ticks left to make it a one-point game. On the full-court pressure, James Mitchell was fouled in the backcourt and calmly sank a pair with 32 seconds left. Dorgler's three to tie was off the mark, but Jack Jones tipped in the rebound to keep the game alive at 67-66 with 18 seconds to play.
Mitchell was again sent to the line and again he responded by draining a pair, and Boyd's desperation three was well off the mark. Tense moments followed as the officials checked the video replay to determine whether the clock had expired before a Saint Rose foul, eventually confirming that the game was over, sparking the Spartan Army's celebration.
After totaling 84 points over the three regional contests and adding 13 rebounds and four blocks to the mix in the finale, Reyes was the easy choice for the top player kudos. McFarlan added 11 points, with some big hoops in the final minutes, with Dorgler chipping in 12 for Saint Rose.
Provided by the St. Thomas Aquinas Sports Information Department.