No. 8-ranked St. Thomas raced to a 33-8 lead in the opening quarter but needed a missed trey in the closing seconds to avoid overtime and post a 67-64 win over No. 23-ranked St. Ben's in MIAC women's basketball play at Schoenecker Arena.
The Tommies became the first MIAC women's hoops program to capture four consecutive solo championships in the sport's 35-year conference history.
Coach Ruth Sinn's Tommies (23-2 overall, 18-0 MIAC) ran their win streak over conference opponents to 52 and their season win streak to 15, despite letting big leads slip away in each half. They are 22-0 this season in games when they hold opponents under 66 points.
Senior center Niki Fokken had 25 points, six boards, five assists and three blocks for the Blazers (22-3, 16-2), who had a seven-game win streak halted. Megan Thompson added 18 points.
UST junior center Hannah Spaulding -- the nation's leading field-goal shooter -- had 20 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and three steals in just 23 minutes, making 9-of-12 shots.
But Spaulding was injured early in the fourth quarter and didn't return. UST's next best scoring threat, junior guard Lucia Renikoff also was knocked out with an eye poke, which contributed to an 11-2 Blazer run that pulled the visitors within seven points with 6:41 to go.
The Blazers later climbed within 64-62 with 1:51 remaining, but Renikoff, who had just came back on the floor, nailed a 3-pointer with 90 seconds to go to extend the lead to 67-62.
St. Ben's got a basket from Fokken to pull within 67-64, but missed two free throws in the final minute. They had a chance to tie in the final 15 seconds but missed a trey and a layup on their final two shots.
Junior guard Kaylie Brazil scored 10 of her 14 points in the second half and added five assists for another clutch performance. Lauren Fischer had eight points and four assists, and Renikoff had eight points and six boards. St. Thomas made 14 of 16 shots in the first quarter, then survived a poor second half which included 11 turnovers and 9-of-31 shooting.
The Tommies won three of their last four games by a combined 13 points with Spaulding (20 ppg) either fouled out or in the training room in the final stretch of each game.