March 17, 2023
Stanford, California, USA
Sacred Heart Pioneers
Stanford 92, Sacred Heart 49
JESSICA MANNETTI: Thank you. This game was incredible. Stanford is a dynamic, balanced, very well-coached team.
If you're going to lose to a team in the tournament, let it be to Stanford. I mean, just being able to play against that level of talent was such an incredible experience to witness. They almost had seven players in double digits. They have weapons all over the floor, and I think I'm the most proud of our kids because we weren't scared of that.
We did a tremendous job starting the game at the pace we wanted, getting the shots we wanted, and really coming out of the gate firing. I was really proud of our effort. Really, really proud of the way that we responded through some of the runs that they had.
At the end of the day we did what we came here to do, which was compete nationally. We came here as NEC champions; won that First Four game and were able to really bring a lot of pride to our university and make history.
You know, unfortunately most seasons end with a loss unless you win some sort of championship, but this doesn't feel like a loss to us today. I'm very, very proud of our program.
Q. Ny, just talk about you matchup with Talana Lepolo. What it was like going against her and just how you felt that matchup went?
NY'CEARA PRYOR: The matchup was great. She's a great player. She pushes in transition just like how I do, so it was just a great experience to play somebody that's small like me with a team that has a lot of high people -- I mean, I'm sorry, a lot of people that have height on her team and she's one of the smaller ones.
It was a great experience to go against her.
Q. Ny, you obviously are shorter than most of the players you go against. Is there a difference when you're going up against 6'3", 6'4", 6'7"? I guess how do you feel that difference the most?
NY'CEARA PRYOR: It's definitely a different experience. A lot of girls that's 6'7", 6'5'. I'm not used to that, but they allowed me to like get to the basket sometimes. Sometimes they got the block; sometimes they didn't.
But I just had to take my time. They baited me into some shots, altered my shots because they're just long, but...
Q. What is it like when Stanford just keeps bringing in tall players and depth and just so many different threats? I know your coach touched on it, but even without Cameron Brink they're pretty loaded?
KELSEY WOOD: Yeah, it was difficult obviously. I mean, they have five inches on me, so in the NEC we're not really used to seeing that.
But I think it was really good exposure for our team. I think we handled it pretty well. But they're just big and strong and just great players.
So we tried. We played really hard. All the posts were exhausted at the end of the game. They're all great players, but it was really good exposure for us.
Q. When the first quarter is5, it's only a 5-point deficit at the end, obviously it gets away later on, but is that something that you can look back on, and even just with this that minute and within those minutes were hanging pretty tough with one the of top teams in the country?
NY'CEARA PRYOR: That will sit with me for the rest of my life. We stayed with Stanford. I'm very proud of my team. We're a very young team. I'm just proud of them overall.
KELSEY WOOD: Yeah, I agree. We were pretty hyped when the first media came out and we were up by two points. I think it was, 7-9. We were like, oh, my God, we got this.
We just said we got to keep playing our game, have fun with it. It was definitely an experience and I'll never forget this.
Q. This is for Ny. After the game I saw that Tara VanDerveer gave you a hug and said a few words to you. Can you share that?
NY'CEARA PRYOR: She said I'm a great player, take your time with it. I'm young, so keep going.
Q. What did that mean to you? I saw her do that, I mean, not only with Jessica, but she actually takes a minute during the handshakes and speaks to you all. It's sincere. She's been doing it for long, long time.
NY'CEARA PRYOR: That's a great experience. She's a great coach. It means a lot to me. She's a great coach like I said, so to hear that from here is amazing.
Q. Kelsey, when you guys come out to California, you barely have any time to breathe after winning the NEC. As you know that you're heading home and whatnot, what will you take away from just the week that this was in winning your conference to flying into this game and these two?
KELSEY WOOD: Yeah, I'll take every single experience that I had here in California. Everything. Just winning the championship at home and then flying out here and getting the first NCAA win in NEC history. I mean, I can list a thousand things that I'll remember, but really I think I'll just remember this team forever.
Like we just connect and we have such a special bond that I've never felt with any other team. We're all best friends. Just amazing. So having this experience with my best friends is probably what I'm going to take away from this.
NY'CEARA PRYOR: Oh, Kelsey kind of said it. I'm going to remember this feeling for the rest of my life. We played with Stanford on their court. Who would have ever thought? I'm just proud of this team and looking forward to the years to come.
Q. Ny, just talk about big picture for you, the success you've already had as a freshman. How excited you are to have your freshman season go the way that it did? I think Tara mentioned you led the nation in steals.
NY'CEARA PRYOR: Yeah.
Q. Talk about the ceiling that you feel you have and just how exciting it is to play so well as a freshman.
NY'CEARA PRYOR: Yeah, I feel like the sky is the limit, you know. Why not run it back? A lot of people say you did everything your freshman year, but I'm trying to run it back.
I feel good. I'm trying to run it back. It's just amazing experience and great feeling.
Q. Seemed like Haley Jones sparked the run for Stanford. What was it that made her so hard to defend as she got those buckets in the late first and second quarter?
NY'CEARA PRYOR: The game plan was to play off, but she is just an awesome player. She knew how to make a move and get to the basket with ease, finish with both hands.
So it's hard to send her one way without sending her to the other side. It's hard, but she's a great player, so she just made the adjustment.
THE MODERATOR: Any more questions for the student-athletes?
Thank you Ny'Ceara and Kelsey.
Questions for Coach Mannetti?
Q. So you kind of had a carbon copy but the reversal, reciprocal of what happened in the second quarter. You guys had single digits this game, but you forced them to single digits last game. What did it feel like when you saw the momentum change like that in the second quarter?
JESSICA MANNETTI: You know, I am always prepared for runs in a game, right? Like we say, ride the high and survive the low. I probably should have called a timeout to break up the run a little quicker, but for us, we were really focused on offensive rebounds and live ball turnovers to really minimize their second-chance opportunities or opportunities off our mistakes.
I think those moments got away from us a little bit and our response offensively unfortunately was to take a quick shot, so I think we gave them a couple possessions quickly after we couldn't score and maybe we had made a mistake.
Obviously it never feels good to have to go through that other side of it, but they're such a great team and they make you pay when you play teams at this level, and obviously Stanford is a well-oiled machine.
You see them in the transition advantage and you blink on a turnover and it's a layup. You can't get there fast enough to stop that quick transition advantage.
So I think for us, we just had to calm down a little bit, settle down. We got to that media and I said, we got to settle down a little bit, take better shots. We were shooting well in that first quarter and we just couldn't really -- I thought we took some good shots in the second quarter; just couldn't hit.
Sometimes when you don't see the ball go through the basket things compound and you just can't stop it fast enough. So I thought we responded well coming out of the half to just try and get settled back again.
When Haley Jones sparks a run like that, she's one the best players in the country for a reason. I give her and her team so much credit. They are relentless. They are absolutely relentless. You think you disrupted them and forced a great shot and it's like, boom, O-board, put-back. How do you stop it? So it was certainly a different experience.
We've never played a team that is this level, this high of a level. I think our players were really exposed to it and they loved it. They loved this experience to say, wow, like within Division I there are so many different levels.
This is one of the best teams in the country, and while we got to hang with them for a quarter, they really showed why they are one the best teams in the country in that second quarter for sure.
Q. Two questions for you: Obviously it didn't seem to impact them to some extent, but when did you find out that Cameron Brink wasn't going to play tonight and how much was she a part of your game plan for them?
JESSICA MANNETTI: Yeah, she is such a special player, isn't she? I found out like 30 minutes before the game. My staff came and told me. They said she hadn't been warming up and there was a public announcement I think.
So I didn't tell the team before. I didn't tell the team in our -- after the warm up. I told them right before the game. By the way, 22, Cameron, isn't dressing tonight. I think that gave them a little bit of reprieve. All right, that's great.
I didn't want to tell them that her sub was a 6'7" freshman. They figured that out quickly. I think it gave them some reprieve to go into the first quarter with a little confidence knowing they wouldn't be at their full strength.
Obviously they can win without her. They're better with her. She's such a big piece of their inside game.
So we found out kind of late, which I think was better for us because then we could celebrate that quickly.
Q. Obviously if it's a close game you don't get these type of moments, but when you can pull your players off and give them a hug, I noticed you tearing up a little bit at a few points in the fourth.
JESSICA MANNETTI: Yeah.
Q. What are those moments like as a coach when you go hug a player and have a little sense of finality?
JESSICA MANNETTI: It's hard to put into words the feelings that you have after a season like we've had, right? And we're coming to play here at Stanford and being able to watch them fight and finish out this dream season, like I said earlier, doesn't feel like a loss.
When we're able to sub them out and celebrate them one at a time and just take that deep breath, we have played six games I think in 14 days. I mean, and we've been bi-coastal with it.
To be able to take that breath and say, oh, my gosh, this is it. This is the last game. We're not going to have to go to bed and wake up early and scout prep and prepare for something else.
We can really celebrate this moment where, wow, we've done some really amazing things for Sacred Heart, for the NEC, for everybody that's ever supported us. Let's take that moment right now and just be really grateful.
Q. What did this week mean to you and what will be one of your lasting memories of that week?
JESSICA MANNETTI: It's hard to put into words. As a coach you dream of seasons like this one. You don't always get them and you don't always have the opportunity to coach players that impact your life. You know, as a coach you always try to impact their life. We started three freshman tonight. We came from eighth place last year. We lost four of our five top scorers.
We didn't know who we were. We had no identity through nonconference, and to be a part of this turnaround, to be a part of the support that we've had for our program, to be a part of this young group's belief, I think I said in the locker room, you believed. There was never a doubt in your mind that we could be great and we could be special.
You did that. Nobody gave that you to you. As a coach to be a part of that, to say, oh, my gosh, these young women are inspiring and amazing, I will never forget everything that we've gone through over the last two weeks.
I will never forget playing here at Stanford where as a little girl you dream about these moments. Once you feel it you never want to not feel it again.
So I think it will keep us hungry and driven to be able to return back here and maybe do more next time. This is an unbelievable start for our program to give our university. Our president called wishing us luck this morning.
The national exposure it's given us, the belief, the fight, it's amazing. I'm very blessed to be able to coach these kids and be a part of what they decided they wanted to be this year.
Q. You kind of touched on what I was going to ask, which is what is going to be the key to building on this and looking ahead, building on this for next season? You guys accomplished so much. What's the key to keeping your players hungry and making the next steps as a program?
JESSICA MANNETTI: So you talked to Ny. She's absolutely relentless. One of the most competitive players I've ever coached and she's our captain. She was named captain four games into our season. She will not let us let up.
Her foot is always on the gas and her team goes with her. She takes them with her. So for Sacred Heart, this is a huge steppingstone towards what we want to continue to build.
You know, the NEC has been on the map the last couple days. The women have won their First Four game. The men won their First Four game and just upset Purdue today, which is amazing.
We're so proud of our conference. So proud of our university and the support they rally to give women's basketball. This is our starting point, right, winning that First Four game and making history.
Why not do it again? Why not be able to get into this tournament and do it again at that next level that we want to challenge ourselves to get to? I think with our young players like Ny and Amelia and Ciara and our players that are returning, I think the sky is the limit with this group. They're really special and young. A part of me thinks we won because they didn't know any better about how hard it was this year to win in March.
And so I'm excited to continue to build and excited to continue to have the support that we've had and the beautiful -- belief that we've had. That's half the battle here and I think we believe.
Q. Last question: With Stanford's depth, as you're scouting them was there anybody that stood out today where you were like, oh, we weren't expecting her to not just play, but play as well as...
JESSICA MANNETTI: No. I wish I could tell you that we didn't have high levels of respect for every one of their players. The scouting report was three pages. We have to know every single one of these kids. Like I said, they're so talented. They're going to play deep into this tournament. They have weapons that just keep coming off the bench. There is no drop off. There is no like seven, eight, nine where you come in and, oh, that's not going to be -- they're great. Every player is very talented and capable.
I think for us, we just knew that we would have to fight for 40 minutes because they were not going to stop, and they didn't and I have so much respect for that.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports