March 1, 2007
FAIRFIELD, CT - Junior forward Joey Henley (Kent, WA) chalked up his first double-double of the season with 20 points and 11 rebounds, leading five Sacred Heart University players in double figures as the top-seeded Pioneers ran away with a 100-68 win over #7 Wagner College in the first round of the Northeast Conference men's basketball tournament Thursday night. The 32-point margin of victory was the largest for the Pioneers since during Division I in 1999.
Sacred Heart, 17-13, scored the first five points of the game thanks to a pair of buckets from Henley. By the time the first five minutes expired, the Pioneers had opened a 15-4 lead and midway through the half led 24-13. Junior Mark Porter (Atlantic City, NJ) tried to keep Wagner in the game, scoring eight of the first 12 Wagner points.
The Pioneers led 44-25 at the intermission and held the Seahawks to just 31 percent from the field (10-32) in the period and forced ten turnovers. Henley had ten points and seven boards at the half, while his team shot a healthy 53 percent from the field (16-30) and 77 percent from the line (10-13) in the half.
"We ran into a buzz saw that we couldn't stop," said Wagner head coach Mike Dean of the first half. "We were outplayed, out manned, and out hustled. We got beat, got beat pretty soundly."
Consecutive dunks by Henley and senior Jarrid Frye (Queens, NY) to start the second half widened the Pioneer lead to 48-25. SHU doubled up the Seahawks at 66-33 on a dunk by junior Brice Brooks (Silverdale, WA) with 12:10 left in the game.
Wagner, 11-19, used a 10-0 run to cut the deficit to 66-43 with 10:03 to go. Senior Matt Vitale (Brooklyn, NY) had eight of the points in the run. Vitale finished with 20 points, including several long-distance three-pointers that awed the Pioneer's home crowd.
Another Frye dunk, followed by a trey from junior Drew Shubik (Stoystown, PA) put Sacred Heart back up 81-46 with 6:28 left in the game, and head coach Dave Bike went to his bench for the remainder of the game as the Pioneers cruised home.
"We came out and wanted to pick up our defense," said Bike "Our defense has to be important. We say defense wins championships and I thought we had a good first half defensively- we didn't let up and rebounded pretty well."
"I needed to step up and play big for my teammates and I just let instincts take over to score down low," said Henley. "I was getting down on myself for my play of late, but we were winning so that's what is most important. Tonight was a team victory."
"We have to give a ton of credit to Sacred Heart because they were incredible tonight," said Dean. "We have taken care of the ball better this season than we did tonight, but that's credit to Sacred Heart's defense and our fatigue."
"I'm happy for Henley, happy for Jarrid Frye and the other seniors," Dean continued. "They have had great careers here. I'm happy for Dave [Bike] and now that they beat us, they're a team were going to root for."
Sacred Heart advances to the semi-finals on Sunday, where it will take on #3 seed Quinnipiac University at 4:00 p.m. in Fairfield.