Sacred Heart continued their winning streak. The Pioneers defeated Southern University 57-47 in Stanford’s Maples Pavilion on Wednesday. The victory was the first NCAA Tournament win for either the men’s or women’s program since the school turned Division I. It was also the first NCAA win for any Northeast Conference women’s team. Sacred Heart (18-13) will face top seed Stanford Friday at Maples Pavilion.
Offensive efficiency: Sacred Heart 79, Southern 66
What Sacred Heart did well. Stay calm and defend. Southern, the SWAC champion, jumped out to a ten point first period lead. Sacred Heart coach Jessica Mannetti simply told her team to relax, regain composure and remember they have been in this position before and came back. "We were 2-9 in non-conference games and mostly due to slow starts," Mannetti said per the school’s website. "We had to learn valuable lessons from not starting well,"
Defensively, Sacred Heart limited Southern to a 66 offensive efficiency, (17 below their season average), 37% shooting from the floor while forcing 20 turnovers. They held Southern to four second period points turning a ten point first period deficit into a 13 point lead at intermission.
What Southern did well. Grab that early ten point lead. Getting the early lead in a game where neither opponent faced each other before, can be a significant advantage. The Lady Jaguars got that advantage but unfortunately couldn’t sustain it. In the fourth period Southern stayed with it, getting a 16 point deficit down to ten. Each time they threatened to make a run however, Sacred Heart answered.
A game MVP would have to go unanimously to Ny’Ceara Pryor of Sacred Heart. The Nec’s Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the year, narrowly missed a triple double. The 5’3" freshman dynamo scored 11 points, handed out 10 assets and grabbed eight rebounds. Pryor seemed to be everywhere all night, coming up with a key basket, dishing out a pinpoint pass after getting in the lane or becoming a defensive disruption.
Sacred Heart’s leading scorer was Olivia Tucker with 13 points. Kelsey Wood scored ten while Amelia Wood, an eight point scorer, hit two key first period threes to get the Pioneer offense going.
Southern (16-14),coached by Carlos Funchess, saw a five game win streak and their season come to an end. The Lady Jaguars had one double figure scorer, Genovea Johnson with 11 points.
"We just made history and we are not done with this story" - Na’Ceara Pryor
"I am proud of our team’s effort. It was a true battle tonight. I am so proud of how our team rallied to make history tonight." - Jessica Mannetti