Queens women hold off St. Thomas Aquinas

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The similarities were there, even if the Queens College women’s basketball team didn’t want to think about them.

The last time the Lady Knights had a comfortable lead late in a home game riding a four-game winning streak, they crumbled down the stretch, falling in the final seconds to C.W. Post on Jan. 17.

On Saturday, Queens saw its 19-point second-half lead reduced to just one in the final three minutes of its critical NYCAC game against St. Thomas Aquinas.

But this time Queens closed out the game strong, going on a 9-2 run to negate the Spartans’ ferocious comeback in a 79-75 victory at Fitzgerald Gymnasium.

“You want to be peaking at the right time and I think we are. We’re a much better team now than we were in January,” said Queens coach Denis Conroy. “Two months ago, four months ago, last year we lose this game.”

With the win, the Lady Knights’ fifth straight, Queens (12-8, 11-6) leapfrogs St. Thomas Aquinas into sixth place in the league standings.

And with three other teams with five league losses and two others with four, Queens is still very much in the title hunt with seven regular season games remaining.

For an eight-minute stretch at the start of the second half, Queens looked the part of a NYCAC powerhouse. After a three-pointer by Brittney Thomas brought St. Thomas Aquinas (11-8, 10-6) within 36-35, the Lady Knights went on a 22-4 run capped by Erin White’s third three-pointer of the game.

Forty seconds later Erin Dollard, who had 16 points including 4-of-8 from three-point range, buried a long-range bomb to give the Lady Knights a 60-41 lead with 11:51 left. As a team, Queens shot 44.8 percent from the field, including 57.1 percent from three-point range — 71.4 percent (5-for-7) in the second half.

“We converted the shot opportunities that we got, which is something we haven’t done lately,” White said. “Playing like that helps us win games, but once in a while we make bad decisions.”

Led by Regina Cunningham, who scored 13 of her team-high 20 points in the second half, and Caitlin Hayes (17 points, 17 rebounds), STAC clawed its way back in the game and sliced its deficit to just 68-67 with 2:54 left in the second half.

Desperate for an answer, the Lady Knights found one in Lauren Tartamella. The junior transfer from LeMoyne knocked down her lone three-point attempt with 2:35 left.

After White drew an offensive foul on Hayes, Shonda Holder (24 points, nine rebounds) converted a three-point play to put Queens ahead, 74-67.

“I’ve been a little off this year, so that was nice,” said Tartamella, who had seven points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals in 32 minutes. “You can’t stop shooting, though. She was giving me room and I had to take it.”

After hosting Dowling Thursday, Queens plays at Concordia Saturday at 1 p.m.

Queens men snap nine-game losing streak. Knights coach Kyrk Peponakis admitted he didn’t think it would happen again, but on Saturday Queens returned to the win column for the first time since Jan. 8, snapping a nine-game losing streak by beating St. Thomas Aquinas, 70-62.

“I’m just happy we won because we played well for a longer period of time,” Peponakis said. “Sometimes the first one’s the hardest one, and I’m glad we were able to bounce back today and get ourselves straight.”

Instrumental in the win, which may kick start the Knights’ playoff push, was senior Rob Villanueva.

The former Franklin K. Lane standout via Sage Community College was spectacular, scoring 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting and grabbing seven rebounds in 24 minutes after being sidelined because of foul trouble.

“It’s about time,” said a relieved Villanueva. “It was tough but we didn’t look down, give up. We got through the toughest part of our schedule and now we just have to keep focused and keep it going.”

Shaun Bertin added 12 points and 10 rebounds and Greg Dickinson had 10 points for a Queens team that played with a desperate intensity but didn’t force things despite nine straight losses.

“It feels real good,” Bertin said. “We know we have to put a couple (wins) together to make the playoffs, and now we’re just going to play hard the rest of these games and see what happens.”

Robert Epps had 29 points, including 13-of-15 from the foul line, and 10 rebounds for St. Thomas Aquinas (9-10, 8-9), which is now 2-9 on the road this season.

“We were coming off a drubbing at Concordia and it was our fifth game in 10 days so I thought we were a little bit fatigued,” said St. Thomas Aquinas coach Dennis O’Donnell. Queens “played smart and they did what they had to do.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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