FAIRFIELD, CT (February 8, 2012) – The Sacred Heart Pioneers shot a season-high 60.4% (29-48) and got 30 points from junior Shane Gibson (Killingly, CT) but needed to stave off a late Bryant rally to come away with a 79-77 win at home Wednesday night in game one of Northeast Conference Rivalry Week. The Pioneers and Bulldogs meet again on Saturday at Bryant in game two of the NEC's "New England Knockout" series.
The Pioneers (12-14, 6-7 NEC) never trailed on Wednesday night and led by as many as 14 early in the second half but saw that lead sliced down to one with just under six minutes to play. Gibson had the hot hand all night, scoring 15 points in each half on 10-of-16 shooting including five three's. Gibson broke the SHU Division I single season scoring mark in the win, needing just eight points coming in to set the mark. He has scored 564 points thus far this season and moves past Maurice Bailey who posted 542 points during the 2003-04 campaign.
Bryant (2-23, 1-12 NEC) got off to a cold start, opening 0-5 from the field over the first four minutes. Ben Alitt provided the first Bryant points, a lay-up at 15:15, but SHU extended their early lead to 9-3 on Gibson's first three of the night a 15:16. The Pioneers made it 11-3 on a junior Justin Swidowski (Cinnaminson, NJ) reverse dunk and Gibson's second three at 13:30 pushed lead to 14-7
The Pioneers continued to click offensively as freshman Phil Gaetano (Wallingford, CT) went high off the glass for a lay-in and followed with a three at 10:56 to go up 19-7. SHU made it four-of-five from three in the early going as freshman Steve Glowiak (New Britain, CT) drilled one from the right corner giving the Pioneers a 13-point lead. Bryant's Frankie Dobbs got the Bulldogs off on a quick 8-0 spurt capped by an Alex Francis fast break bucket at 6:15, forcing a SHU time out and cutting the lead to 24-19.
Sacred Heart responded with a quick run of their own, with sophomore Evan Kelley (Norwalk, CT) pushing the lead to 37-24 and forcing the Bulldogs to burn a time out with 1:36 left. The Pioneers closed out the first half on a 12-4 run as Gibson finished the stanza making six-of-seven on the way to a 39-26 lead.
SHU went up 14 in the opening minute of the second half and held a 53-40 lead with 12:35 left looking to put Bryant away. The Bulldogs had other plans and chipped away over the next seven minutes with an 18-6 rally. Francis, who scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half, pulled his team within five, 59-54, on consecutive makes with 7:44 left. Out of the media timeout, Francis made one-of-two at the line for his seventh-straight point and Erick Smith buried a three to slice the SHU lead all the way down to 59-58 with 5:56 to play.
Back-to-back dunks by Swidowski and senior Stan Dulaire (Bloomfield, CT) helped stabilize the Pioneers and consecutive three's by Gaetano and Gibson built the Pioneer lead to 71-64 with 2:45 left. A pair of Gibson free throws gave SHU a 74-66 lead with 1:33 left but the Bulldogs continued to push back as a three from Dan Calandrillo followed by a pair of Pioneer turnovers left Bryant within striking distance. Raphael Jordan buried a triple with 59 ticks left and left SHU up just 74-72. Gaetano gave the Pioneers a lift with a runner underneath with 22 seconds left.
Calandrillo missed the mark on a three but Dobbs cleaned up the rebound to pull back within two, 76-74, with 14 seconds left. SHU's Kelley left room for a tie making just one of two at the line, but Dobbs missed fired on a three with six seconds left and Gibson sealed it with a pair of freebies.
For Gibson, this is his fifteenth 20-point plus game this season and his third time hitting for 30 or more. Gaetano chipped in with a career-high 12 points while also passing out seven assists. Swidowski went for 15 points with six rebounds and a pair of blocks.
Bryant got 18 from Jordan who led four players in double figures. Dobbs scored 17 point while Francis had 16. The Bulldogs had 30 rebounds, 14 offensive and scored 19 second chance points in the loss, their 10th-straight.
The Pioneers and Bulldogs are right back at it on Saturday for "New England Knockout" Part II. Tip-off at the Chace Athletic Center is set for 1:00 pm.