Washington, D.C.-It's often been said one of the toughest things to do in sports is to beat a good team three times in a season, and that is what the top-seeded University of Bridgeport Purple Knights faced taking on the second-seeded St. Thomas Aquinas College Spartans in the finals of the 2020 East Coast Conference Men's Basketball Championship at the University of the District of Columbia on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately if you are a UB fan, that old adage proved to be true, as the Spartans topped Bridgeport, 74-67, to claim the ECC's automatic bid to next week's NCAA Division II National Championship Tournament. The Purple Knights, who are almost assured of an NCAA at-large bid and stand a good chance of hosting the East Regional, are now 24-4 overall, and STAC will play in the NCAA's with a 25-5 mark.
St. Thomas Aquinas dominated the first half of action, as STAC led by 13 points, 36-23, at the half. In the first half, UB hit only 26.9 percentage of its field goals, and the Spartans outrebounded the Purple Knights, 26-16, during the opening stanza. St. Thomas Aquinas finished the game with a 46-36 advantage on the glass.
Bridgeport would stage a furious comeback in the second half, as UB came all the back to grab a four-point lead, 57-53, with just over six minutes to play. The game was tied, 61-61, with 3:10 to play, and 64-64, with 2:03 to play, but STAC used outstanding free throw shooting down the stretch to outscore the Purple Knights, 13-6, during those final three minutes and 10 seconds of play to grab the conference crown.
Poor free throw shooting plagued Bridgeport in the game, as the team hit only 56.0 percent of its shots from the stripe, going 14-25. STAC connected 84.4 percent of its free throws on the day, going 27-of-32 from the line.
Four UB players also fouled out on the day; while no Spartans were disqualified in the game.
Senior Bakary Camara (Harlem, N.Y.) led four Purple Knights' in double-digit scoring with 15 points. Senior D'Vonne Trumbo (Pilesgrove, N.J.) and sophomore Jayden Iturmendi (York, Pa.), each had 12 points for UB, and junior Hashem Abbas (Nablus, Palestine) rounded out the quartet in double figures with 11 points.
Trumbo led Bridgeport on the glass with seven rebounds.
STAC's Osbel Caraballo, who was named the championship's Most Outstand Player, led the winners with 25 points and 11 rebounds.
The Purple Knights will now learn their NCAA fate at 10:30 p.m. on Sunday evening when the entire field for the 2020 NCAA Division II Championship Tournament is revealed on www.ncaa.com
2020 EAST COAST CONFERENCE MEN'S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
MOP: Osbel Caraballo, St. Thomas Aquinas