Convent of the Sacred Heart hoopsters hungry for another run at FAAs

It’s been 23 long years since the Convent of the Sacred Heart basketball team was able to raise a championship banner in its gymnasium.

With only one senior lost from last year’s championship-winning team and a bunch of improved athletes, you’ll have to excuse head coach Sean Green for getting greedy and hoping for a repeat this time around.

“It’s a good pressure because we got the target now on our back,” Green said. “The girls know that they can’t relax because everybody’s going to be gunning for them. It’s called good pressure because of the great season we had last year. In a way it’s nerve-racking, but I think our performance last year has given our girls confidence and the knowledge of what it takes to be successful.”

Last year the Tigers started the season going back to basics, working on the fundamentals nearly all the time. All the hard work paid off, as the Tigers grabbed the top seed in the Fairchester Athletic Association postseason.

In the FAA championship game against School of the Holy Child, the Tigers grabbed a big lead early and held on for the 63-45 victory that gave the school its first title in over two decades. Sacred Heart ended the season with a 18-7 record overall.

“The first talk I had with my team this year was that they could either be satisfied with what happened last year and come out and go through the motions or we can keep on improving and step it up a notch from last year,” Green said. “We are going to King and going to Rye Country Day and I’m sure they’re going to want to pay us back.”

In its quest for a repeat, the Tigers started this year in the right direction, fighting off a tough Hotchkiss team and winning 44-40. Senior co-captain Kayla Souza finished with a team-high 12 points. The duo of fellow junior co-captain Colleen O’Neill and sophomore center Emily O’Sullivan each added 10 points in the winning effort.

One of the keys for Green this year is getting his team to eliminate personal goals and work more towards a team goal.

“Saying that you want to go out and score a certain amount of points isn’t going to help us,” Green said. “That’s a personal goal and I want to make sure they are a part of the five that are on the court. If there is an open shot, they could recognize it and take it, but if there is an open pass, the kids don’t hesitate and pass it. As long as the girls play selfless and as a unit, I think we will be a decent team this year.”

This year’s team will be led by Souza, a senior, and junior O’Neill. Souza will be the team’s shooting guard while O’Neill will be Sacred Heart’s point guard. O’Neill stepped up last year for CSH during their postseason run, scoring 21 points and three assists in the FAA finals, while Souza added 18 points, three assists and one steal in the championship game.

“I need them to be very vocal and keep the team together,” Green said. “They need to keep the team motivated and on the same page. They also need to play under control. Against Hotchkiss, we came out with the win, but we had turnovers and the crowd really got into it and the girls got frazzled. It’s their job to settle the team down. They need to be the coach for us on the court.”

Like last year, O’Sullivan will be key for Sacred Heart down low. In the FAA finals, O’Sullivan made her presence felt, scoring 14 points, but more importantly grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds. Helping O’Sullivan will be junior Shelby Holland. Green believes that Holland will be a strong rebounder, but will also be important in the team’s passing game.

Returning to the Tigers is senior Jenna Hascher, who was on the team two seasons ago, but was unable to play last season.

“She’s a great defender and is a good shooter,” Green said. “She gets to the basket and is very aggressive. She just needs to recognize what we want as a team, what shots are good shots to take and when to pass. The last team she was on was that 4-14 team, but she was close-knit with the team last year.”

Playing at one of the guard spots will be junior Bridget Scaturro, who has been a starter since her freshman year. In addition to her three-point shot, Green will utilize her strong defensive ability.

Coming off the bench as the sixth man will be Claire O’Neill, Colleen’s younger sister. While the sophomore is 5-10 and will grab some rebounds, Green said Claire O’Neill will be a contributor draining the long ball.

“I don’t want to put everybody out in the first five,” Green said. “She will give us some firepower coming off the bench.”

Playing at either point or shooting guard will be junior Madison Sirabella, who was injured most of last season.

“She’s very fast and very athletic, but she needs to just play within herself and not get really excited and do things herself,” Green said. “She needs to know her role on the court.”

The Tigers’ biggest strength this season will be their balanced attack, as numerous athletes could work the ball underneath, hit the outside shot or fire the jumper from mid-range. Although Sacred Heart has all but one of their players returning from last year, they are still young.

“Hamden Hall, King and Holy Child still have their big guns coming back,” Green said. “It’s going to be a good league. We need to work on all five players defensively rebounding. They need to focus on using their feet and not their hands. They need to make the proper rotation. I also need the guards not to turn and watch. They need to crash the boards. Our defense is going to start our offense.”

While the Tigers have a handful of girls that play basketball every chance they get, others only devote three months to basketball and Green said that it showed during the preseason.

“We need to start to gel as a team,” Green said. “There were some that haven’t really improved from last year and it’s kind of frustrating. I have everybody some summer homework and let them all know what they need to improve on. Some have come back improved and other are at the same level. The key for us now is not to go back into our old habits that lose ball games. We can’t play fast and frantic. We need to trust teammates, trust them to let go of the ball and stress team defense.”

Although the Tigers are still beaming from their FAA championship, don’t expect them to rest on their laurels.

“I’m optimistic for this season,” Green said. “I think every team comes into the season wanting to win. That was our goal last year and our goal this year as well. However we are still taking things one game at a time. I look at the schedule and if we do what we need to do, we will have another successful season.”

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