AP NEWS

women’s basketball Pioneer spirit

March 22, 2019

FAIRFIELD — A loss in the NEC semifinals was disappointing for the Sacred Heart women’s basketball team, sure, but the disappointment only goes so far. The Pioneers liked their effort, and they have another game Friday.

“We chose the word ‘resilience’ as our word for the year. I really think we stuck to that,” graduate-student guard Erin Storck said after practice Wednesday at the Pitt Center. “We had a lot of adversity, with injury, a short bench at times. I was really proud of this group.”

The Pioneers make their eighth postseason appearance in Division I on Friday, visiting Georgetown at 7 p.m. in the first round of the WNIT. They’re seeking their first win.

They’ve had a 19-12 regular-season, including 14-4 in the NEC. They led St. Francis (Pa.) in the conference semifinals early, but their shooting went cold in a 68-60 loss.

They aren’t dwelling on that. The Pioneers have five seniors and some young players who’ve made strides. They’ve got four players who were honored on NEC’s postseason all-star teams, including first-teamer Katherine Haines, who posted the program’s first triple-double on Jan. 19 at St. Francis (Brooklyn) — 25 points, 15 rebounds and 11 blocks.

“When we are in a good rhythm, playing inside-out — obviously, we have a first-team all-conference post player; she’s dynamite, gets it done for us every night — the reason she’s so successful is because our guards have done a tremendous job being guards,” Pioneers coach Jessica Mannetti said.

“They can hit the 3. They can attack the rim. So being really balanced from a scoring standpoint, four players on the all-conference team, three are guards, is really favorable in terms of the offense we run. We are tough to scout. It’s just needing everybody to be on on the same night.”

Georgetown, Sacred Heart knows, will be a challenge, a Big East school with top-flight guards, like Dionna White, a senior who set the school record for steals, and Dorothy Adomako, who averaged 16.5 points.

“We’re both similar on paper in the sense that we don’t give up a lot of points defensively. We score about the same,” Mannetti said. “I think they’re physically going to be a really big challenge, but from a basketball standpoint, we just have to do what we do and feel confident, hit some shots and feel good.”

Storck said she loves the chance to play big-name programs. The Pioneers have experience playing against one this year: They visited Kentucky, ranked 18th at the time, on Dec. 29.

The Wildcats won 71-43, but it’s not like going into McDonough Arena on Friday will be the most intimidating thing the Pioneers have ever done.

“Coach Mannetti has talked about this before: When we go into a game like that, we have to go in confident,” Storck said. “We don’t want to wait two, three, five minutes to say ‘we can play with these girls.’ We are a Division I basketball school. We just have to go in confident and have no regrets.”

There’s a neat local side connection to the matchup: Georgetown sophomore guard Lexi Kimball of Westport is the all-time leading scorer at Greens Farms Academy, where Mannetti coached before going to Hofstra as an assistant, her last stop before joining the Pioneers.

“She’s a great kid. I worked with her father, Jeff,” Mannetti said. “Jeff is amazing, and I know Lexi was so in love with basketball. She did so many great things at GFA. I’m proud of her.”

mfornabaio@ctpost.com; @fornabaioctp