March 15, 2023 

Locked on Women’s Basketball: NCAA Tournament Cinderella Sacred Heart is ready to go dancing

Head coach Jessica Mannetti: 'To be able to have a turnaround like this ... it's everything you dream about'

The latest episode of Locked on Women’s Basketball features host Howard Megdal talking with Jessica Mannetti, the head coach of Sacred Heart, which earned a No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Pioneers (18-13 overall, 12-4 in conference) finished second in the Northeast Conference in the regular season but knocked off regular-season champion Fairleigh Dickinson in the championship game of the conference tournament. Sacred Heart will play Southern in the First Four on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET.

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Mannetti reflects on the season as a whole:

“It’s been a dream. We had a brand-new team this year. We didn’t know what to expect. We got picked preseason sixth [in the Northeast Conference]. We had a really tough nonconference stretch [and] didn’t come into conference with a lot of wins. And to be able to have a turnaround like this with a lot of freshmen, transfers, new players that didn’t have a ton of playing experience … it’s everything you dream about from when you’re a little girl and you watch it for the first time and say, ‘Oh my gosh, that could be me one day.’ Like, here it is. We’re here.”

Mannetti also raves about freshman point guard Ny’Ceara Pryor, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds against Fairleigh Dickinson. The 5’3 Prior is averaging 18.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 33.7 minutes per game and was named a team captain early in the season.

“There are two kinds of players: There are players in moments of adversity that will shut down or that will wake up. And she is the alarm clock. She is the alarm clock. She never shuts down. … She is amazing. So she’s a proven winner. And we knew it in the [recruiting] process that she was special. And we put her in an environment here, in a system offensively that she thrives in, in a defensive system that she can have so much freedom to do what she does, and then in the leadership position where she can drive the winning.”

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