by Dan Gardella
Fairfield – Just 36 hours ago, Sacred Heart dropped a tough, nine-point game to LIU Brooklyn. After the game, Pioneer head coach Anthony Latina said he needed his leaders to step up and perform when it counted.
Those leaders received the message and responded in a big way. Four Pioneers scored in double figures and a strong defensive effort helped Sacred Heart snap their five-game losing streak with a 67-54 victory over the Central Connecticut State University Blue Demons Saturday afternoon.
Sacred Heart turned Central Connecticut State over 16 times, which resulted in 13 points for the Pioneers.
After Mustafa Jones opened the scoring for the Blue Devils on the opening possession, Central Connecticut State would go scoreless for the next four and a half minutes. During the drought, a layup by Mario Matasovic and a three pointer from Alex Watson put Sacred Heart ahead by three early on.
After Kinnon LaRose’s three pointer put the Pioneers up 10-9, Sacred Heart would hold onto the lead for the next eight minutes until a Joe Hugley three gave the Central Connecticut State a 23-21 lead with 4:29 to play in the half.
A lead that featured eight lead changes and two ties concluded with a deep three pointer by Tyler Kohl at the buzzer, giving the Blue Devils a 30-27 lead.
Out of the locker room, Sacred Heart scored the first seven points of the half to lead 34-30 heading into the first media timeout. The Pioneers would not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the game. Sacred Heart would outscore Central Connecticut State 40-24 in the final twenty minutes thanks for 64% shooting from the field. Strong defense and an efficient offense helps the Pioneers win for the first time since January 13th, when they defeated St. Francis Brooklyn 92-52.
In Latina’s eyes, it was a great all-around game for his team.
“I’m more pleased with the defensive effort because that’s more effort. But I do think there was a conscious effort to move the ball more. We had 18 assists tonight. I don’t think we’ve have 18 assists in a long time. So, I think I would say equal because the defense was effort and focus and the offense was unselfishness.” Said Latina.
A season-high 18 assists for the Pioneers was led by junior Sean Hoehn, who had 16 points along with 6 assists.
Along with Hoehn, teammates Kinnon LaRose, Joseph Lopez, and Mario Matasovic all scored in double figures, making the offense a balanced attack.
“We all know we are good players” said Hoehn. “I think we played free, we played loose and guys like Joe (Lopez), Mario (Matasovic), and Kinnon (LaRose) we all stepped up. If we continue to play unselfishly and for the fun of the game I think we will be alright.”
On the other side, there was one word that described their performance in head coach Donyell Marshall’s eyes: Toughness.
“They were tougher than us.” Said Marshall “We are tough to each other but we’re not tough to other teams. It was very visible today”.
Sacred Heart, who leads the NEC in rebounding margin outrebounded Central Connecticut State 34-28 and scored almost twice as many points in the paint than the Blue Devils (34-18).
Central Connecticut State was led by Tyler Kohl, who recorded his sixth double-double of the season by scoring 25 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
Sacred Heart (8-17) (3-9 NEC) looks to carry the momentum into their next game as they travel to Fairleigh Dickinson to take on the Knights Friday night.
Central Connecticut State (12-13) (5-7 NEC) aims to end a three-game losing streak as they return home to face Mount St. Mary’s.