BY Joseph Sciancalepore
With the Northeast Conference playoffs starting in less than a month, the Sacred Heart Men’s Basketball team is ready to make the most out of the last nine games of the season.
Following their win over St. Francis Brooklyn on Feb. 1, the Pioneers ran their winning streak to four in a row. While the team has played well lately, head coach Anthony Latina recognizes that there is still room for improvement for the remainder of the season.
“These guys are super motivated,” said Latina. “Now it’s all about improvement, so we have to get the most out of our practices and improve together as a team.”
The Pioneers set a goal at the beginning of the season to finish near the top of the conference. Junior E.J. Anosike knows how important ending the season on a good note will help the team meet their expectations.
“Going into these last few games, I feel like preparation is a big factor,” said Anosike. “We have to be the more disciplined team and push ourselves to the limit to make sure we meet our goals from the beginning of the season.”
Anosike, who is averaging a double-double this season, highlighted how strength and conditioning sessions and a strict diet in the offseason led to his improvement this season.
“I knew that I would be stepping into a bigger role this season, and I knew that I would need to work hard in the off-season in order to be a leader on the team,” said Anosike. “I have to carry myself a certain way because I know that whatever the team does is going to be a reflection of me.”
Along with Anosike, seniors Jare’l Spellman and Kinnon LaRose know that improvement on both sides of the game will help the team be more successful just in time for the playoffs.
“Communicating on defense is one of our weak points right now, so talking effectively during the entire possession will be a major key for our success,” said Spellman, who is averaging a team-leading 2.5 blocks a game.
“A big key for us is doing the right things, being fundamentally sound, setting good screens, cutting hard, moving the ball around more,” said LaRose. “When the team is holding everyone accountable and playing as one, the sky’s the limit when we do that.”
Amid the success the Pioneers have had this season, they endured a loss within their starting lineup. Sophomore point guard Cameron Parker, who averaged more than seven assists per game, broke his left ankle, which will sideline him for two months. Latina realizes that with the loss, it will be a team effort to replace Parker’s impact.
“We certainly relied on him offensively a lot and certain guys are going to have to elevate their level of play,” said Latina. “We still have to be a high assist team but a little bit more by committee now.”
With the five of the last eight games being played at home, Latina knows that playing good at home has its rewards.
“Even though home court advantage does not guarantee anything, the more home games you win, the better chance you are at hosting home games in the playoffs.”
The Pioneers host St. Francis University on Feb. 6 with the hopes of extending their winning streak to five games.