MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - St. Thomas (Fla.), the 18th ranked team in NAIA Division II, remained perfect on the 2012-13 season with a 73-70 victory over NAIA Division I 11th ranked MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) on Monday night at the Fernandez Family Center. MidAmerica Nazarene (10-2) is the highest-ranked NAIA Division I opponent that St. Thomas (10-0) has ever defeated in its program's history.
The 10-0 start for St. Thomas is the best start to a season in school history. In addition to their 10-game winning streak, the Bobcats are also on a 14-game home regular-season win streak.
The Bobcats never trailed in the game, aided by nine-of-17 (52.9%) shooting from beyond the arc. Defensively, St. Thomas forced 15 MNU turnovers on eight steals and blocked four shots.
Junior guard Berna Miranda hit five-of-six three-point attempts and scored 20 points to lead all scorers. Junior forward Dannisha Pierce scored 19, shooting nine-of-ten from the free throw line including two free throws with six seconds left in the game to ice the victory.
Senior guard Shanika Brooks added 17 points with four three-pointers. Senior forward Constina Cousins registered team highs with six rebounds, three blocked shots, and three steals to go along with her 12 points.
The Pioneers were led by junior forward Rachel Boan who scored 19 points on nine-of-13 shooting. Senior forward Kendra Fleming recorded a double-double with 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
St. Thomas jumped out to a 9-2 lead to start the game with Pierce scoring seven of STU's nine initial points. The Bobcats would maintain their lead throughout the first half, highlighted by a 15-6 run to stretch the lead to 33-20.
After taking a 39-29 lead into the half, the Bobcats matched their largest lead of the game at 50-37 with 16:43 to play on a Pierce jumper. The Pioneers would go on a 14-6 run to cut the lead to five points before a three-pointer by Miranda gave the Bobcats a 61-53 lead with 9:47 to play. MNU then went on an 8-0 run to tie the game 61-61. A Cousins jumper and a Miranda three-pointer would open up the STU lead again, but the Pioneers battled back, ultimately cutting the lead to one on a jumper by Boan with 15 seconds to play.
MidAmerica Nazarene was forced to foul in the final seconds, putting Pierce on the line as she made her final two free throws to give STU the win. Coming out of a timeout with three seconds remaining, the Pioneers were unable to get a final shot off as time expired.
St. Thomas returns to action with two more games this week, facing Siena Heights (Mich.) on Tuesday and Morningside (Iowa), the third ranked team in NAIA Division II on Wednesday in the Cruzin' Classic in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.