`FAIRFIELD — When Sacred Heart reached the championship games in the Northeast Conference tournament in 2007 and 2008, those teams were marked by three distinct qualities — balance, leadership and toughness.

Heading into this season, coach Anthony Latina feels that this season’s Pioneer team has those same characteristics.

“They seem to be willing to do whatever it takes,” Latina said. “We know where we want to go, and we know the commitment that it’s going to take.”

Where the Pioneers want to go is exactly where the 2006-07 and 2007-08 teams went, and take that next step into postseason tournament play for the first time in the program’s Division I history.

“I believe in this team and I think in March we’re going to be where we want to be and have a chance to do something special ... maybe historic,” Latina said. “The buy-in factor with this group is what excites me the most. I think we have enough talent and the buy-in is at such a high level. This is the most excited I’ve been. I want success for them so bad because they’ve done everything I’ve asked.”


Conference — Northeast

2016-17 Record — 13-19, 8-10 NEC

Postseason — None

Coach — Anthony Latina (fifth season, 45-80)

First game — Friday, 6 p.m., vs. Holy Cross at the Pitt Center

Predictions — The Pioneers were selected to finish fifth in the preseaon poll. Senior forward Joseph Lopez was named to the preseason All-NEC first team

Starters — In SHU’s 81-71 exhibition win over Manhattan, Latina started Sean Hoehn (19 points, six rebounds, five assists), Mario Matasovic (18 points, 8-for-8 from the field), Joseph lopez, Kinnon LaRose and Charles Tucker. Expect to see the same five starters Friday against Holy Cross.

Roster — 1-Anthony Boateng, Fr., G, 5-9, 150 (Bronx, N.Y.); 2-Zach Radz, Soph., G, 6-2, 185 (Watervliet, N.Y.); 4-Alex Watson, Fr., G, 6-3, 170 (Marietta, Ga.); 5-De’von Barnett, Sr., F, 6-5, 195 (Waldorf, Md.); 10-Charles Tucker Jr., Sr. G, 6-1, 188 (Lansing, Mich.); 11-Jaecee Martin, Fr., G, 5-9, 180 (Hartford, CT); 13-Cavan LaRose, Grad., F, 6-3, 185 (Ogdensburg, N.Y.); 14-Chris Robinson, Sr. G, 6-3, 165 (Bronx, N.Y.); 21-Joseph Lopez, Sr. F, 6-7, 220 (Miami, Fla.); 22-Sean Hoehn, Jr., G, 6-2, 182 (Morristown, N.J.); 24-E.J. Anosike, Fr., F, 6-7, 235 (East Orange, N.J.); 25-Jarel Spellman, Jr. F, 6-10, 205 (Glen Allen, Va.); 30-Kinnon LaRose, Soph., G, 6-3, 185 (Ogdensburg, N.Y.); 31-Mario Matasovic, Sr., F, 6-8, 215 (Gornja Vrba, Croatia)

Skinny — The Pioneers had a roller-coaster season 2016-17 , struggling through three four-game losing streaks along with a five-game winning streak. They need to play better at the Pitt Center (6-8 last season) and can’t continue to allow 75 points per game in the conference. If they can stay healthy, Lopez, Robinson, Barnett and Sean Hoehn could all have breakout seasons.

Quote — “It’s exciting. We’re coming from a different place. When you have veterans and experience. The expectations are different and that’s what we want. Now’s the time to raise the bar. It’s time to be a major factor.” - Latina