March 10, 2013

Pioneers Advance to NEC Semifinal; Defeat Terriers with Stifling Defense

Fairfield, Conn. (March 10, 2013)—  A stifling defensive effort by Sacred Heart lifted the Pioneers over St. Francis Brooklyn 64-38 Sunday afternoon in the quarterfinal round of the 2013 Northeast Conference Tournament.  Sophomore Gabrielle Washington (Mesa, Ariz.) led the way with 21 points, missing her first career double-double by two rebounds. With the win, Sacred Heart Head Coach Ed Swanson ties former Saint Francis U Head Coach Jenny Przekwas for the all-time Northeast Conference Tournament record of 16 wins.

The Pioneers defense forced the Terriers to turn the ball over 32, and recorded their third 20-steal performance of the season. Ericka Norman (Chino Hills, Calif.) posted five steals, while Blair Koniszewski (Vienna, Va.) had a career-high, and game-leading, six.

"I felt really good at the beginning of the game when I saw our defense all over the place, swarming the ball," said Swanson. "I think start to finish it was one of our better defensive performances of the year." 

Morgan Merriman (Seattle, Wa.) and Koniszewski joined Washington in proving to be weapons on offense, adding 13 and 12 points for Sacred Heart respectively. 

The Terriers opened the game with a 5-1 run, but with 15:28 on the clock, Koniszewski landed a shot from downtown kicking off an 11-0 run boosting SHU to a 12-5 lead.

Sacred Heart's stifling defense held St. Francis to just 15 points in the first half, eight points throughout the first 15 minutes, while they went on to put 31 on the board. The Pioneers forced 16 turnovers in the opening half, converting three for points on the fast break.

The teams exchanged points in the early minutes of the second half, but SHU quickly expanded their lead with a three consecutive buckets forcing St. Francis to call a timeout.

With 12:29 left in the game, Washington drained a triple to give the Pioneers their biggest lead of the game at 24 points.

The Pioneers consistently held at least a 20-point lead throughout the second half, on their way to the NEC Tournament semifinals.

On Wednesday night, Sacred Heart will host No. 4 Saint Francis U who defeated No. 5 Central Connecticut State Sunday.  Tip-off is at 7 pm in the Pitt Center.