SPARKILL, NY – The Knights overcame a halftime deficit and survived a late-game flurry to take down top-seeded St. Thomas Aquinas, 71-66, on Saturday afternoon to regain their hold on first place in the East Coast Conference. The Rowland sisters combined to score 58 points while leading Queens College to the victory.
Merrick Rowland and Madison Rowland each scored 20 points to share team-high honors, while MacKenzie Rowland worked the interior for her ninth double-double of the season with 18 points and 13 rebounds. In spite of their efforts, the Spartans were able to take command of the game by halftime, and stay within striking distance for much of the final two quarters. Queens' stingier defense in the second half combined with timely baskets by Merrick and Madison gave the Knights enough to come back and prevail in the end, improving their record to 6-1 in conference play and 12-3 overall.
After Madison scored on the game's first play on a jumper from the left wing, MacKenzie's three-point play two possessions later put the Knights ahead 5-0. The Spartans, who began the game tentatively missing on a few open opportunities, found their footing after the four-minute mark in the first quarter. Adiya Henderson's put-back after two offensive rebounds sparked her team to a 12-0 run, giving St. Thomas Aquinas a 16-9 lead with 1:19 remaining. Queens responded with a surge to end the quarter when sophomore Kaitlyn Mahon hit a jumper before Merrick was able to swoop in for a buzzer-beating lay-up to bring the Knights within two, 18-16.
In what had already turned into a back-and-forth game, Merrick knocked down a pair of three-pointers to keep Queens College close through the opening possessions of the second quarter. Her second cut the Knights' deficit to one, 25-24, with 4:39 remaining, before St. Thomas Aquinas went on their own surge to close the first half. Led by senior guard Jenna Erickson, the Spartans outscored Queens College 13-7 from that point on, capped when Erickson's second-chance three-pointer as time expired put her team ahead 38-31.
MacKenzie, Madison, and Merrick all scored in quick succession to open the second half, which brought the Knights to within two, 40-38, with just over a minute having passed. It took until the 5:25 mark for Queens to regain the lead when Merrick's fifth three-pointer made it 46-45, and her sixth minutes later tied the score at 49-49. While Queens was unable to fully overcome their deficit by the end of the third quarter, they forced the Spartans into making four key turnovers during the stretch and crept back within one, 52-51.
The Knights' built-up momentum carried through to the opening stages of the fourth when Madison and MacKenzie combined to score seven straight points to resume the lead and take control of the game at 58-52 with seven minutes remaining. Tense play followed from both sides through the middle part of the quarter, forcing St. Thomas Aquinas to begin fouling the Knights with 2:12 still to go. Queens made enough of their free throws as the game wound down to ice the Spartans' final run and put the game away with the final score 71-66.
Erickson led St. Thomas Aquinas with 21 points off the bench, who after the loss slid to 6-2 in ECC-play and 12-4 overall. While the Spartans were able to force Queens College into 19 turnovers and turn those into 19 points on the other end, the Knights were able to outscore their opponents in the paint, 26-20, thanks in large part to Madison and MacKenzie. Meanwhile, Merrick's new season-high of six three-pointers gave the Knights' great offensive balance, guiding them to 7-of-12 shooting from distance.
Queens College returns home for their next game, Wednesday night's conference matchup with Daemen. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.