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Monday, June 17 Sports

Sacred Heart looks to continue ‘resilience’ in WNIT

FAIRFIELD — A loss in the NEC semifinals was disappointing for the Sacred Heart women’s basketball team, sure, but the disappointment only goes so far. The Pioneers liked their effort, and they have another game Friday.

“We chose the word ‘resilience’ as our word for the year. I really think we stuck to that,” graduate-student guard Erin Storck said after practice Wednesday at the Pitt Center. “We had a lot of adversity, with injury, a short bench at times. I was really proud of this group.”

The Pioneers make their eighth postseason appearance in Division I on Friday, visiting Georgetown at 7 p.m. in the first round of the WNIT. They’re seeking their first win.

They’ve had a 19-12 regular-season, including 14-4 in the NEC. They led St. Francis (Pa.) in the conference semifinals early, but their shooting went cold in a 68-60 loss.

They aren’t dwelling on that. The Pioneers have five seniors and some young players who’ve made strides. They’ve got four players who were honored on NEC’s postseason all-star teams, including first-teamer Katherine Haines, who posted the program’s first triple-double on Jan. 19 at St. Francis (Brooklyn) — 25 points, 15 rebounds and 11 blocks.

SACRED HEART at GEORGETOWN

WHAT: Women’s National Invitation Tournament first-round game

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: McDonough Arena, Washington

RECORDS: Sacred Heart 19-12; Georgetown 16-15

VIDEO STREAM (pay-per-view):GUHoyas.com/watch/?Live=85&type=Live

ABOUT THE PIONEERS: Sacred Heart makes its eighth Division I national postseason tournament appearance (fourth in the WNIT) but is looking for its first win. ... The Pioneers had won six in a row and nine of 10 before a 68-60 NEC-semifinal loss to St. Francis (Pa.). ... Graduate-student F Katherine Haines (16.8 points per game, 9.0 rebounds per game) was named first-team All-NEC. Three others earned postseason all-conference honors.

ABOUT THE HOYAS: Georgetown had won five in a row before falling to Marquette 75-62 in the Big East semifinals. The Hoyas have won six in a row at home. ... Sr. G Dionna White (16.4 points per game) was named first-team All-Big East. Her 349 steals are a program record. ... Georgetown is 3-0 all-time against Sacred Heart, though the schools haven’t met since Nov. 9, 2012.

UP NEXT: The winner plays the winner of Friday’s Harvard-Drexel game, site and time to be announced.

— MICHAEL FORNABAIO

“When we are in a good rhythm, playing inside-out — obviously, we have a first-team all-conference post player; she’s dynamite, gets it done for us every night — the reason she’s so successful is because our guards have done a tremendous job being guards,” Pioneers coach Jessica Mannetti said.

“They can hit the 3. They can attack the rim. So being really balanced from a scoring standpoint, four players on the all-conference team, three are guards, is really favorable in terms of the offense we run. We are tough to scout. It’s just needing everybody to be on on the same night.”

Georgetown, Sacred Heart knows, will be a challenge, a Big East school with top-flight guards, like Dionna White, a senior who set the school record for steals, and Dorothy Adomako, who averaged 16.5 points.

“We’re both similar on paper in the sense that we don’t give up a lot of points defensively. We score about the same,” Mannetti said. “I think they’re physically going to be a really big challenge, but from a basketball standpoint, we just have to do what we do and feel confident, hit some shots and feel good.”

Storck said she loves the chance to play big-name programs. The Pioneers have experience playing against one this year: They visited Kentucky, ranked 18th at the time, on Dec. 29.

The Wildcats won 71-43, but it’s not like going into McDonough Arena on Friday will be the most intimidating thing the Pioneers have ever done.

“Coach Mannetti has talked about this before: When we go into a game like that, we have to go in confident,” Storck said. “We don’t want to wait two, three, five minutes to say ‘we can play with these girls.’ We are a Division I basketball school. We just have to go in confident and have no regrets.”

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There’s a neat local side connection to the matchup: Georgetown sophomore guard Lexi Kimball of Westport is the all-time leading scorer at Greens Farms Academy, where Mannetti coached before going to Hofstra as an assistant, her last stop before joining the Pioneers.

“She’s a great kid. I worked with her father, Jeff,” Mannetti said. “Jeff is amazing, and I know Lexi was so in love with basketball. She did so many great things at GFA. I’m proud of her.”

mfornabaio@ctpost.com; @fornabaioctp

Michael Fornabaio|Sports Reporter

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