Sacred Heart Academy was eliminated from the Southern Connecticut Conference tournament Saturday with a loss to Amity. However, coach Ed Panzo isn’t worried about his team’s confidence. The Pacers started the season 2-6, only to pull it together to qualify for the Class L tournament and even upset Cheshire in the first round of the SCC tournament.
“Our (confidence) level is sky high,” he said.
The Pacers struggled in their first eight games, losing three straight twice to start the year. Sacred Heart Academy ended the losing streak, but to Panzo, it wasn’t until a 59-33 loss to Career on Jan. 24 when his Pacers would turn it around.
“A light bulb went on, and from then on, we knew we could play together as a team,” the coach said.
Senior Siobhan Fennell agreed.
“We didn’t have the same mindset,” she said. “We really came together.”
Since that 26-point loss to the defending SCC champs, the Pacers routed Cheshire in the regular season and in two late-season games against Amity, they only lost by a combined four points.
Fennel has been instrumental in Sacred Heart’s turnaround. So has Lauren Davis, who is averaging 9.4 points per game and has nailed 37 3-pointers this season. Alison Narracci has also contributed averaging 8.2 ppg. for the Pacers.
Sophomore point guard Kaleigh Putnam has been steady for the Pacers in her first year as a starter. She backed up Shyla Osmond, who transferred to Hillhouse, last season.
“I knew sooner or later I was going to have to step up,” she said.
The team felt the same way after its slow start. Needing eight wins to qualify for states, Fennell said the Pacers saw every game as a playoff game.
“We knew if we didn’t win a game, we weren’t going to move on,” she said.
The Pacers clinched a playoff spot in a 34-24 victory over Hamden on Feb. 11 and has gone 3-2 since, with both losses coming to SCC semifinalist Amity.
With the SCC tournament behind them, and the state tournament ahead of them, Fennell said the Pacers are not ready to go home.
“We’re a team no matter what happens,” she said. “It’s been a good ride so far, and I can’t wait for it to continue.”