January 7, 2008

Stephanie Ryan Delivers Sacred Heart 66-64 Win Over Long Island

Jan. 7, 2008

Final Stats

FAIRFIELD, CT (January 7, 2008) - Sacred Heart junior Stephanie Ryan (Coram, NY) scored a team-high 22 points Monday night, none bigger then her final two on a lay-in with 10 seconds left to lift the Pioneers to a 66-64 win over Long Island University in a battle of two of the top-teams in the Northeast Conference standings. The Pioneers remain unbeaten in conference play at 4-0 and improve to 9-6 overall on the year. LIU saw their league-best nine-game winning streak snapped with the loss as they fall to 11-3 and 2-1 in the NEC.

With the game tied 64-64, Ryan came up with the big play just seconds after missing her chance to put SHU in front after a technical was called on the Blackbirds. Taking the ball out after SHU tied it, LIU sophomore Connie James called a timeout with none remaining and the Pioneers were awarded a pair of free throws and the ball with 11 ticks left. Ryan stepped up to take the two freebies, but both missed their mark. Head Coach Ed Swanson though went right back to the junior forward off the inbounds as freshman Maggie Cosgrove (Andover, MA) found Ryan all alone underneath for the easy bucket and the lead.

The Pioneers (9-6, 4-0 NEC) used a big first half from Ryan, 12 points and six rebounds, to open a 36-27 lead at the break. SHU shot 46.7% (14-30) over the first 20 minutes and limited LIU sophomore Valerie Nainima, the NEC's second leading scorer (19.8 ppg), to nine points in the half.

The second half was a different story for the Pioneers as the Blackbirds used two different runs to take control and build an eight point lead late. SHU came out and held their nine-point advantage until the 13:32 mark when LIU began to make their first move. The Blackbirds used a 13-4 run over the next six minutes to tie the game at 48-48, ending with a Sara Oblak jumper at 7:46. After Cosgrove buried a three on SHU's next possession, Nainima hit one of her own and was fouled on the play, completing the four-point play at the line for a 51-52 advantage, LIU's first lead since the game's opening bucket.

Ryan answered with a jumper from the wing to give SHU the lead back briefly on the next possession but the Blackbirds put together a 9-0 run that saw Nainima hit four-of-five at the line and a jumper. The sophomore standout then found Oblak on the block for a wide open jumper and an eight-point lead, 61-53, with 3:32 to go. SHU turned the ball over four-straight possessions on the run and looked headed for a loss before the recaptured their offensive rhythm.

Cosgrove, who tied her season-high with 12 points, buried a three next time down to cut it to 61-56. Nainima set up another teammate as she found a cutting Mikaelar Whippy for an easy two to push it back to seven, 63-56, but that would prove to be the final Long Island field goal of the night, coming at the 2:23 mark. Ryan buried a jumper next time down and the Pioneers came up with a defensive stop. SHU freshman Alisa Apo (Freehold, NJ), in foul trouble most of the night, found a crease and got to the hoop, finishing the lay-up and drawing a foul. Apo promptly canned the free throw for the three-point play, cutting the lead to just three, 63-60, with 1:37 left.

Another defensive stop gave the Pioneers the ball back with a chance to cut it to one or tie but Ryan's three missed its mark and SHU fouled on the rebound. LIU's James made the fires with 27 seconds left but missed on the second as Ryan corralled the loose ball rebound. SHU elected to go for two and foul the inbound but caught a huge break as junior Khalia Cain got to into the lane and made her scoop lay-in while drawing a foul on James. An LIU timeout, their last, tried to ice the junior but to no avail as Cain buried it to knot the game at 64-64 with 11 ticks left.

The Pioneers went to full court pressure on the inbounds and James struggled to find an open player, turning to the referee and asking for a timeout. The timeout was whistled for by the referee but after consulting with the scorers table, called a team technical on LIU, awarding Sacred Heart two free throws and the ball, setting up the last second heroics by Ryan. The Blackbirds raced up court after the Ryan make but James turned the ball over as Cain came up with a steal as the horn sounded preserving the win.

Ryan added 12 rebounds to her 22 points for her fifth double double of the year. She also added three assists and two steals to her totals. Fellow junior Kaitlin Sowinski (Hopkinton, RI) also picked-up a double double with 11 points and a career-high 13 rebounds, marking the third time this season the duo have gone for double dips in the same game.

The Blackbirds (11-3, 2-1 NEC), who outscored SHU 37-30 in the second half, got a game-high 25 from Nainima in the loss. The sophomore guard also passed out six assists with two steals. Oblak added 20 points to the stat sheet.

Sacred Heart will return to action on Sunday, January 13th when they travel to Robert Morris for a 12 noon match-up. The game will be broadcast live on Fox Sports-NY, the Pioneers only appearance on TV this season.

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