Fairfield, Conn.—A crowd of 676 braved the snowy weather to see the Sacred Heart women's basketball team battle Central Connecticut State University for their fourteenth win of the season and seventh conference win. The Pioneers edged out the Blue Devils just 63-57 to remain undefeated at home and in Northeast Conference play.
"It was a great heartfelt, team win," said Head Coach Ed Swanson.
CCSU struck first on a jumper by Kirsten Daamen, but Ericka Norman (Chino Hills, Calif.) picked off a pass by Daamen 40 seconds later and laid it in for the first Pioneer points.
The Pioneers had to battle through the first half, tying the score twice at seven and 13 points, but could never claim the lead until Morgan Merriman (Seattle, Wa.) laid in back-to-back layups to give Sacred Heart their first lead of the game 20-19 with 7:23 left in the first half.
Sacred Heart maintained the lead for the rest of the half. Sophomore Blair Koniszewski (Vienna, Va.) added five to the Pioneer total before Norman laid one in two seconds before the buzzer leading Sacred Heart into halftime with a 34-24 lead.
Gabrielle Washington (Mesa, Ariz.) put up four quick points to kick off the second half. Just three minutes into the half, CCSU went on a 13-3 run over nearly seven minutes to bring them within two points of catching Sacred Heart.
Sacred Heart was able to keep the lead thanks to Norman once again interrupting a pass and taking the ball up the lane and to the hole. However, a made free throw and a fade away shot by Daamen gave the Blue Devils their first lead of the second half 48-47. She added two more to the CCSU total from the charity stripe after being fouled by Enjoli Bland (Queen Creek, Ariz.).
Callan Taylor's (Overland Park, Kan.) first points of the half knotted the game at 51 with 6:53 left to play. Almost a minute and a half later, Taylor hit a shot from downtown to give the Pioneers to go-ahead.
With just a one-point margin, and 4:04 left on the clock, CCSU's Brooke Bailey knocked down two free throws to give the Blue Devils back the edge. Merriman quickly retorted with a layup and a foul shot to put SHU up 57-55.
Kaley Watras tied it up just before the two-minute mark with a layup, forcing the Pioneers into a timeout.
Merriman, with her sixth shot of the game, broke the tie with just 1:45 left to play to give the Pioneers a lead they would not relinquish. Taylor and Washington added two points each in the last 20 seconds of the game to give Sacred Heart a 63-57 win over their in-state rivals.
"Callan grabbed and important rebound down the stretch and Morgan Merriman made a couple really big layups that really helped us out," said Swanson.
Taylor picked up her tenth double-double of the season in today's win. The senior lit up the board with 17 points while pulling down 11 boards. She was just one of four Pioneers to put up double-digit points.
Norman managed to shoot 66.7% from the field, knocking down six of her nine shots and tallying 14 points.
"We can really learn and grow from this kind of game," said Swanson.
On Monday, the Pioneers face another tough opponent in Quinnipiac as they a look to add another win to their record.