The story behind the Basketball team: Fairfield’s Sacred Heart
The men’s basketball team for Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, is known as the Sacred Heart Pioneers. Right now, they are competing in the Northeast Conference. The venue for their home tournaments is William H. Pitt Center.
Back in 1986, they were national champions while battling with other teams in NCAA Division II.
Pioneer basketball celebrated its 50th season in 2014 and 2015. The 1965–66 season was when the Sacred Heart’s tournaments began in its first year, and it was coached by Don Feeley. In the 1999–2000 season, Sacred Heart was promoted to NCAA Division I.
Although still struggling to earn major achievements, the track record of the team exhibited passion, zeal, and determination to reach the greatest height.
They have made it to some major competitions under different classifications and became inducted into some pivotal sports bodies. Some of them include NCAA Division I between 1999 to 2000. Unfortunately, they didn’t make any appearance for 16 seasons.
Decades earlier, from 1965-66 all through to 1998-99, they qualified for NCAA Division II where they appeared 13 times in 34 seasons.
Games at the home front
The Sacred Heart played at the Memorial Hall for 32 seasons in 1965,1966,1996 and 1997. In the same vein, they also went to William H. Pitt Center, and from 1997-98 till date, they have played there for 17 seasons.
Aside from showcasing their talent on the court, Sacred Heart also showcased skills in decision-making and sports association through their many memberships with several conferences. Northeast Conference welcomed them into the fold in 1999-2000 till date and has appeared in 15 seasons.
Likewise, they joined Division II Independent in 1965-66. They remained there until 1999. Altogether, they attended 18 seasons. Almost 20 years earlier, they were part of the New England Collegiate Conference in 1981-82 until 1997.
For their postseason, Sacred Heart marked their presence 15 times at NCAA Division II Tournaments. Their total record showed that they earned a 22-15 and a national championship title in 1986.
Results from their games indicated that they lost against Assumption Greyhounds in an 83-106 scoreline at the Regional semi-finals in 1971 but made up for the loss when they defeated Stonehill at the regional 3rd place game that ended 86-81.
The following year, they met Assumption Greyhounds again, and history repeated itself when they were beaten 82-112. Bridgeport also conquered them with an 89-107 loss, making it 2 losses for Sacred Heart in one year.
3 years later (1975), they suffered more game losses courtesy of their regular nightmare, Assumption Greyhounds, in a tournament that ended 95-111 and another follow-up smack down from Hartford with a 91-103 loss.
However, they finally got their acts together in 1977 during the regional semi-finals and finals when Assumption Greyhounds paved way for them by losing an 83-78 game in favor of Sacred Heart. The winning spirit lingered on till they beat Merrimack and Towson State by conquering them in 110–104 and 85–82 records respectively.
But the chips went down at Final Four and National 3rd place games when Chattanooga and North Alabama triumphed over them in records of 81–95 and 77–93 respectively.
In 1978, Sacred Heart battled against Bridgeport, winning with a 73-70 scoreline. They also beat Merrimack by a record of 84-83, but Cheyney defeated them at the Elite Eight games with a scoreline of 57-59.
The 1981 games brought them closer to their long-time rival, Stonehill, and smacked down the opposing team with an 89-96 record. Southern New Hampshire snatched their victory at the regional finals when an 80-81 scoreline win in favor of S.N.H was announced.
A year later, Springfield lost to them by 66-61, as well as Southern Connecticut that fell with a 78-67 loss. But Sacred Heart’s joy faded at the Elite Eight games in favor of Kentucky Wesleyan that ended 85-88 loss for them.
Sacred Heart and Assumption Greyhounds clashed for the umpteenth time in 1983 but the latter lost with a 113-108 scoreline. American International also lost to them by 72-68, but the District of Columbia conquered them with a record of 38-45.
Bentley and Bridgeport suffered colossal defeats with records of 103-88 and 69-67 losses in favor of Sacred Heart. Meanwhile North Carolina Central lost by 1 point short in a game that ended 57-58.
Tanner Thomas and Joey Reilly were recently added to the team. Anthony Latina, the Sacred Heart’s latest head coach, presented them to the public at a ceremony.
“We are extremely excited about adding Joey and Tanner as well as our entire incoming recruiting class. They are hardworking, high-character student-athletes that prioritize being both the best students and athletes they can be,” enthused Latina.
While Latina holds the reins at the men’s team, Jessica Mannetti heads the women’s team.
Sacred Heart struggled to keep their heads above the waters by winning 5 games from November 10, 2021. These victories were against La Salle, Fisher, Lafayette, Columbia, and LIU Sharks. However, their effort could not stand the test of time as they lost 11 matches within the same time.
They drew their last tournament in January, 2022.