FAIRFIELD, CT (January 5, 2012) - A pair of Shane Gibson (Killingly, CT) free throws with five seconds left gave Sacred Heart its first lead since the game's first points and delivered the Pioneers a 66-65 comeback victory over visiting St. Francis Brooklyn Saturday afternoon in the William H. Pitt Center. The Pioneers open Northeast Conference play 2-0 for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
Gibson netted a game-high 28 points for the Pioneers who also got 14 points off the bench from senior Justin Swidowski (Cinnaminson, NJ), all coming in the second half. Sophomore point guard Phil Gaetano (Wallingford, CT) scored a season-high 11 points to go with nine assists.
The Terriers (5-8, 1-1 NEC) got off to a solid start and built a 13-point lead midway through the fast start. After a Gibson three opened the scoring, SFC went inside where senior Akeem Johnson and sophomore went to work. The duo scored 12 of the Terriers first 15 points for a 15-9 lead just over five minutes in.
Gaetano hit a pair of threes in the game's opening minutes but two by P.J. Santavenere buried two of his own and SFC led 27-16 with 10 to play. A Travis Nichols lay-in gave the Terriers their biggest lead of the night at the 9:28 mark. A Cannon tip-in at 2:23 gave his team a 33-21 lead but SHU scraped together a 7-0 spurt to close out the half taking some momentum into the locker room.
The Pioneers (4-9, 2-0 NEC) tied the game five times in the second half before Gibson's late free throws. St. Francis Brooklyn pushed their lead back to double digits at the 16:05 mark as Cannon hit underneath for a 46-35 lead. SHU went to Swidowski and the senior delivered.
Swidowski scored his 14 minutes in a span of about five and half minutes to help pull the Pioneers back in it. A three by the big man pulled SHU within 46-42 and an old fashioned three point play tied the game at 47-47. Gibson pulled the Pioneers even twice, hitting on the fast break to tie it at 56-56 and then a jumper in the lane to knot it at 58-58 with 7:04 left.
Johnson got a pair of lay-ins for the Terriers who went up 62-59 with five and a half left. After Gaetano tied the game for the sixth time with a jumper off glass at the three minute mark, SFC's Ben Mockford buried a long three on the next possession for a 65-62 lead.
Gibson pulled SHU within one on a runner in the lane and after getting a turnover, the senior looked like he would put the Pioneers up but came up short on a lay-in. Forced to foul, SHU sent Brent Jones to the line for a one-and-one. Jones missed on the first as Louis Montes (Brockton, MA) corralled the rebound with 29 seconds left giving SHU the chance at a last shot.
Coming out of a time out, the Pioneers went to Gibson who drew Johnson's fifth foul with five ticks left. Gibson promptly stuck both free throws and the Pioneers set up to defend the last second chance by SFC. Jones shook loose and got into the paint but his lay-up shot fell short as the horn sounded securing the Pioneer win.
Cannon finished with 20 points and 16 rebounds for the Terriers while Johnson scored 17 with six caroms before fouling out.
The Pioneers will begin a four-game road swing next Thursday night by traveling upstate to face the Central Connecticut Blue Devils.