Daemen College’s hopes for a first trip to the NCAA Division II men’s basketball tournament ended Sunday in an 80-63 loss to downstate power St. Thomas Aquinas in the championship game of the East Coast Conference Tournament at the University of the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C.
Coach Mike MacDonald’s Wildcats overcame an early 24-12 deficit and trailed by only 43-42 at halftime. However, they were outscored 37-21 in the second half by the hot-shooting Spartans from Sparkill, who won their 20th straight game.
Daemen completed its season 19-10 overall. The Wildcats went 14-6 in the ECC regular season, finishing second. Aquinas was the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament after going 18-2 in the ECC regular season. The Spartans are 26-4 overall, won their first conference championship and earned their first NCAA bid ever.
Chaz Watler of Aquinas was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Watler posted 20 points while Justin Reyes added 17 points and 17 rebounds as he helped the Spartans dominate in the paint, where they outscored Daemen, 46-20.
Torrence Dyck led Daemen’s scoring with 22 points. Arif Mehmetaj had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Daemen reached the final with a 103-102 overtime victory on Saturday over Mercy College. Dyck had 23 points and 10 rebounds in the victory.