FAIRFIELD, CT (January 21, 2011) - Junior Shane Gibson (Killingly, CT) buried the game-winning shot with 6.7 seconds left to lift the Sacred Heart Pioneers to a 62-61 win over visiting Central Connecticut State on Saturday afternoon in front of 1,368 fans. In a game that featured the top-four scorers in the Northeast Conference, Gibson led the way with 26 points, his ninth 20-point effort in his last 10 games.
Neither team held a lead of more than five points in a game that featured 13 ties and 13 lead changes. Sophomore Louis Montes (Brockton, MA) recorded his first double double of the season with 21 points and 14 rebounds, matching his career-high. The Pioneers improved to 10-11 overall and evened their NEC record at 4-4 with the win.
The Blue Devils (9-9, 6-2 NEC) got off to a slow start, going just one-for-six for their first four minutes. Freshman Kyle Vinales, the NEC's leading rookie scorer, caught fire and hit three-of-five from behind the arc on his way to a 16 point first half. In the first meeting this season, SHU held the rookie to just five total points in an 82-80 overtime loss.
Montes gave the Pioneers the largest lead at 19-14, completing a three-point play with 9:48 on the clock. Vinales's third three of the half knotted it at 19-19 and after a Ken Horton steal and fast-break lay-in capped a 9-0 spurt, the Blue Devils led 23-19 with 7:17 left. SHU pulled even at 27-27 but a pair of free throws from Vinales and Robby Ptacek closed the half and gave CCSU a 31-28 lead at the break.
Central grabbed a five point advantage out of the locker room on a Horton lay-up, 33-28, but neither team could put any distance on the other in the second half. The final stanza featured eight ties and the Pioneers went up 48-47 on a Montes three with 7:11 left, their final lead before Gibson's late heroics.
Montes would tie it at 49-49 at the free throw line and then answered a Ptacek three with one of his own at 5:23, the last SHU field goal until six seconds left. Ptacek would give his team back a five-point advantage just under two minutes later, drilling a straight-away three-ball, 59-54. SHU did their work at the free throw line to stage the comeback as sophomore Chris Evans (Stamford, CT) made three of four, Montes one of two and sophomore Evan Kelley (Norwalk, CT) two-of-two to pull within 61-60 with 1:01 left.
CCSU had a chance to extend the lead but a Ptacek jumper missed the mark with Montes snatching his 14th board. SHU appeared to squander the opportunity with a turnover over but senior Stan Dulaire (Bloomfield, CT) came up with the play of the night, making a diving steal on the inbounds with 21 seconds left.
The Pioneers used a time-out to stage the final shot. Gibson got the ball back from freshman Phil Gaetano (Wallingford, CT) in the left corner, made a move and let fire from just inside the three-point line, drilling home what would be the game-winner. Ptacek would get a look at a three just before the horn, but missed the mark.
Coming into Saturday's tilt, Gibson led the NEC in scoring with Horton, Ptacek and Vinales right behind him in second through fourth. The foursome would not disappoint combining for 83 of the game's 123 total points. Horton would post a double double with 25 points, 14 rebounds while adding three blocks. Vinales finished with 20 and Ptacek 12. The only other CCSU player to score was Malcolm McMillan with four points.
The Pioneers will remain home next week and play host to the Wagner Seahawks on Thursday night at 7:00 pm.