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NEC title game pits Pioneers against Blue Devils

New Britain, CT (Sports Network) - An automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament is up for grabs tonight in Detrick Gym in New Britain, Connecticut, as the Sacred Heart Pioneers pay a visit to the Blue Devils of Central Connecticut State for the title game of the 26th annual Northeast Conference Tournament.

The Blue Devils of CCSU have been here before, taking the NEC title in both 2000 and 2002, but Sacred Heart didn't win its first tournament games until this season, so this is a new experience for the Pioneers. As the top seed in the tournament with a conference mark of 16-2, CCSU beat up on St. Francis (NY) in the quarterfinals last week (79-61) and then slipped past Mount St. Mary's (74-68) three days ago to make it to the championship game once again.

As for the second-seeded Pioneers, who have now strung together six consecutive victories, they destroyed Wagner in the opener (100-68) and then followed that up with an 83-69 triumph against Quinnipiac.

CCSU won both meetings between the teams this season, taking a hard- fought 103-96 overtime outing in January and then an 80-66 decision two weeks later. As a result, the Blue Devils lead the all-time series against Sacred Heart by a count of 25-11.

In the two games against CCSU this season, Jarrid Frye was one of four players to average double-digit scoring as he dropped in 16.5 ppg, followed by Drew Shubik with 11.5 ppg and a team-best 10 assists, but the squad shot only 61 percent at the free-throw line and allowed the Blue Devils to convert a ridiculous 55.6 percent from the field in those outings. On the season overall Frye, who was named to the All-NEC First Team this season, has started all 31 games for the program, leading to his 13.2 ppg, is first with 5.2 rpg and is second with both 82 assists and 52 steals, so there's never a dull moment at either end of the floor for him when he is around the ball. In conference play this season, the Pioneers shot a lofty 50.4 percent from the field, which led to 81.2 ppg, but the squad still struggled at times, allowing 77.4 ppg to opponents. Sacred Heart has scored at least 90 points seven times this season to lead the league in offense with 78.7 ppg.

Having the NEC Player of the Year in Javier Mojica is one thing, but to have three players on the All-NEC First Team is such a huge accomplishment for the Blue Devils and marked the first time in the 26-year history of the league that three players from the same team have ever been chosen for such an honor. Also on that prestigious list are Tristan Blackwood and Obie Nwadike, with the former being named Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the NEC as well. Oddly enough, Mojica wasn't even the top scorer on his own team this season, putting up 16.5 ppg and trailing Blackwood who was good for 17.2 ppg. However, Mojica did cover all the bases from one end to the other as he cleared seven rebounds per game, was first with 48 steals and second in assists (102). He shot an impressive 40.6 percent from three-point range, compared to Blackwood (132 assists) and his 38.2 percent. Nwadike was one of only a few players in Division I able to average a double-double with his 15.0 ppg and 10.9 rpg.

03/07 10:35:29 ET