Colonials pioneer crucial conference victory over Sacred Heart


Photo credit: Morgan Torchia

Samuel Anthony and Samuel Anthony

Right from the first possession, one could feel the intensity and the importance of this match-up. The two best teams in the NEC duking it out for the right to home-court advantage throughout the NEC tournament.

The crowd was electric every hit three and blocked shot. The Sacred Heart Pioneers were playing right into the Colonials gameplan in the first quarter, trying to be more physical than the best defense in the conference and allowing rising star Nneka Ezeigbo to take it right to the hoop.

And just like that Robert Morris sprang out to a 16-2 lead to start the first six minutes of this one.

The last time RMU faced the Pioneers it resulted in a 79-69 loss early in the season. A key loss which coach Buscaglia and his team surely did not forget.

It took six minutes between Sacred Heart’s first and second basket while Pioneers head coach Jessica Mannetti stood with her hands on her hips wondering how her team was unable to find any sort of answer for what the Colonials were throwing at them.

The Pioneers changed their play in the second quarter and were able to slow down the Colonials offense. But Sacred Heart was still glaring at a 36-24 deficit going into halftime after Janee Brown’s acrobatic statement lay in that showed this game was still in complete Colonial control. Brown’s 11 points were pivotal in the Colonials’ early lead.

“I think I was just being aggressive, I think the girl couldn’t slide with me so I had to be aggressive to take advantage of that.” said Brown.

The second half seemed like an entirely different story, one that changed the entire landscape of this game.

The roles were switched, Robert Morris could not find the answers. Their defense was getting stopped on every offensive possession, getting stuffed down low and being limited on the perimeter. While the Pioneers were on a whole other level, they could not miss.

A layup by Adaysha Williams which seemed to emulate the one earlier by Brown and a flawless three-point shot by Kelcey Castro all of sudden made this a 38-32 game which Sacred Heart breathing right down the necks of RMU.

And just like that, it became the kind of game everyone expected it to be.

A 44-42 score taunted the Pioneers that the comeback was nearly complete.

But an errant pass from the Pioneers kept the lead with the Colonials going into the final quarter of this must-win game.

“We made a lot of mistakes in this game, especially in the bulk of the second and third quarters. We did some things that we very uncharacteristic of this team” said head coach Charlie Buscaglia.

But when it came time for the fourth quarter of play, coach Buscaglia made sure his team was in the right mindset.

“We gotta forget about the things that are frustrated us and you have to go forward in a positive way,” said coach Buscaglia

Every basket in the fourth quarter became critical, nobody wanted to be the one to let up that key bucket.

Megan Smith fought hard for an inside shot to make it 48-44 while Nneka Ezeigbo stood up the Pioneers forwards right after on the other end of the court, nothing was going to be coming easily to finish this one.

This came down to who wanted it more, who was willing to put in all on the line when it counted most. And Anna-Niki Stamolamprou made it clear that it was going to be the Colonials.

Two key buckets, including a three-pointer with 2:53 blew this game back open to a 55-44 Colonials lead.

“I know towards the end of the game whether she’s been hitting shots or not that she is gonna give us the shot we need at the end of the game,” said Brown on Stamolamprou’s ability to continually hit the big shot.

The energy was back.

The comeback which Sacred Heart mounted was already forgotten in the Charles L. Sewall Center.

And the Colonials would walk away from this one with a 66-56 victory.


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