In a battle of cross state rivals at the William H. Pitt Center in Fairfield, CT, the Lady Braves snapped a two game losing streak by defeating the top ranked Sacred Heart Pioneers, 72-69 in overtime.
Quinnipiac’s Junior forward, Theresa Sanchez from Haddonfield, NJ, scored a career high 22 points and grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds. With this exciting win, the Lady Braves improve to 5-4 in the Northeast Conference and 8-10 overall. Quinnipiac currently ranks fifth in the NEC, along with CCSU, LIU, FDU and Wagner.
The Braves lost to Wagner, 71-56, at Staten Island last Thursday night. With this loss, Sacred Heart (9-9) drops to second place in the NEC.
Both teams came out hungry in the first half of this intense match. Quinnipiac matched Sacred Heart basket for basket. Junior guard Katie Caputi, freshman guard, Katie Keilty, and junior walk-on guard Melissa Byrne started, along with Megan Rooney and Tiffany Steele. The score went back and forth for the beginning of the first half. With 12:46 left in the half, SHU’s Ashley Durmer scored a lay-up to tie the score at13.
For the next four minutes, QU held the lead and pulled ahead, 22-16 on Steele’s lay-up, assisted by sophomore Kara Cassidy. Cassidy currently leads the team in assists with 78. This lead did not last for long as SHU went on a 7-0 run, led by Heather Coonradt (10 points, 6 rebounds) to put the Lady Pioneers ahead, 23-22.
The Lady Braves would not let up, taking a 28-25 lead with free throws made by Sanchez and freshman Sara Esidore. Coonradt then scored a jumper at the 2:23 mark to tie the game for the ninth time at 32-32.
Quinnipiac would not allow SHU to score for the remainder of the half and went to the locker room holding a 37-32 halftime lead after a three-point swoosh by Keilty and a lay-up by senior standout Colleen Kloop, who is currently averaging 15 points per game.
The Lady Pioneers opened the second half with a commanding 6-0 run to take a brief 38-37 lead with 16:49 left. Seconds later, Clop scored a lay-up to put the Braves up 39-38. The lead changed hands many times and was tied up again 47-47 after a free-throw by Steele.
With 7:20 left in regulation, Sanchez sank a free-throw at the charity stripe amidst a rowdy SHU gymnasium chanting, “Sanchez, Sanchez… You suck!”
Clop scored a short jumper to give the Braves a 54-49 cushion. Sanchez kept her cool and continued her exceptional play throughout the game. Sanchez noted that she came into the game with a lot of confidence thanks to assistant coach Karen Byrne, who told her not to be scared to shoot.
Sanchez was everything but scared as she dominated the post. The second half saw a lot of lead changes once again and the score was tied for the thirteenth time at 54 at the 5:14 mark, but not for long. A lay-up by Sanchez put the Braves up, 56-55.
SHU then took the lead on a lay-up by Tara Brady, who finished with a team-high 18 points and 7 rebounds for the Pioneers, who kept the lead until Quinnipiac’s Clop scored a lay-up with 19 seconds remaining to tie the score at 63. The game was sent into overtime.
In overtime, the Lady Pioneers had a 69-68 lead with 48 seconds left to play, until Sanchez made the winning jumper on a smart inside play by Head Coach Tricia Sacca-Fabri, to put Quinnipiac up 70-69 with 38 seconds left to play in overtime.
Cassidy and Caputi then iced the game with two free-throws with five seconds left to play after SHU threw the ball away on an in-bound pass. Senior center, Kim Misiaszek also played well for Quinnipiac. She finished with 8 points, but got into foul trouble early in the game and played only 13 minutes. Misiaszek, a Connecticut native, is averaging 13.7 points per game.
Quinnipiac shot 46.4% from the field and made 19 of 29 free-throws. SHU’s Kelly Brook poured in 14 points and grabbed 12 boards in the loss.
Sacred Heart coach, Ed Swanson said Quinnipiac took it right to the Lady Pioneers from the beginning of the game and forced SHU to make a lot of turnovers and not allow them to execute plays that they normally execute. Swanson also said his team lost focus and made mental mistakes when it mattered the most.
On the other hand, Quinnipiac made plays when they needed to make plays. Both Swanson and Sacca agree that all teams are equal in the conference and one team can beat another team on any given night. Winning coach Sacca said she was proud of her team, and said that this win was a total team effort. Indeed it was a total team effort, as ten Braves scored in the victory.
A smiling Sacca added that the Braves defense stepped it up and fought hard, especially after an effortless display of defense in a devastating loss toe the Lady Seahawks. Sacred Heart will know better next time than to chant negative comments about Sanchez, or she’ll attack at the hands of the Pioneers at no cost but another “W” on the Braves’ campaign. The Lady Braves will use this game as a foundation and learning experience to boost their confidence for the road to Trenton in March.