March 3, 2012

Pioneers Win the Battle Against FDU 62-58; Advance to NEC Semifinals

Fairfield, Conn.—The Pioneers passed the test in the first round of the Northeast Conference Tournament, defeating No. 8 Fairleigh Dickinson 62-58. Callan Taylor (Overland Park, Kan.) led the way with a game-leading 16 points, including the shot that gave Sacred Heart back the lead with a little over one minute left to play.

The teams combined for six turnovers in the first 90 seconds of the game before Taylor made the first bucket of the game. She landed two jumpers before Mariyah Laury landed a trey to put the Knights on the board.

Enjoli Bland (Queen Creek, Ariz.) laid one in to make it 8-3 Pioneers forcing Fairleigh Dickinson to use their first timeout. Bursting out of the break, Morgan Merriman (Seattle, Wa.) went on an offensive spurt, adding four to the Pioneer total before FDU could score again, and making Head Coach Peter Cinella use another timeout with 14:51 still left on the clock.  Taylor and Merriman combined for 14 of Sacred Heart's first 18 points by the second media timeout.

The Knights played catch up going on a 10-4 run before Danielle Pankey fouled Gabrielle Washington (Mesa, Ariz.) sending her to the line where she added two improving SHU's lead to 24-18.

Coming out of the last media timeout of the first half, with 3:05 remaining, Fairleigh Dickinson outscored Sacred Heart 8-7, narrowing the gap to just three points, 28-21, heading into halftime. 

Fairleigh Dickinson continued to hang tight in the second half, never trailing by more than four after the 14:34 mark in their upset bid.  The Pioneers were up 39-32 at the 15-minute mark when Crawford completed an old fashioned three-point play to start the Knights on what would be a 20-6 run over the next 10 minutes. They took their biggest lead of the game at 5:54, 52-45.

Sacred Heart turned it around with just over five minutes left when Washington and Alexis Campbell (Ashburn, Va.) combined for back-to-back-to-back threes to come back and knot the game at 54-54.  Down 54-48, Campbell drilled her first three of the season, and Washington tied in next time down off a FDU turnover.  FDU would push the lead back to four on a Laury jumper but Campbell stepped up and drilled her second to pull within one.

With just 1:13 left in the game, the NEC Player of the Year worked her way to the basket to make a left-handed layup putting Sacred Heart back on top for good, 59-58. Two jumpers from Washington before the final buzzer lifted the Pioneers to the 61-58 win.

The Pioneers will host the remaining lowest seed on Tuesday in semifinal round of the NEC Tournament.