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Photo: Zach Buckley

Sacred Heart as a small private school is creeping into the playoff picture with some winning momentum and a new coach that is accustomed to winning, Matt O'Keefe. O'Keefe filled an unexpected coaching vacancy at Sacred Heart and has the Crusaders pointed in the right direction.

"I took over three weeks ago when they were 3-6. We're 8-8 right now, but most importantly we're undefeated in our division which is what we care about. The girls have worked hard, and so far I am pleased," noted O'Keefe about his most recent coaching job. He is a veteran coach with stints at Raleigh, Perry Central, and Petal. He's been to the overall championship tournament 10 times. A matter of fact the last game he coached before joining Sacred Heart was the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star game in 2007.

He rode into Sylva-Bay with a mission and that was to stop the outside shooting of Saints. He told just how the Crusaders accomplished the mission, "I thought defensively we did a really good job on our full-court 1-2-2 pressure. It enabled us to get an early lead. It took them out of their game plan. They're a very good outside shooting team. I thought we did a good job defensively taking them out of what they wanted to do."

The Crusaders were all business on defense. They held the Saints to nine first-half points with 35 of their own. Sacred Heart never looked back. They dominated Sylva-Bay in every aspect of the game and left with a 53-27 road victory.

Sylva-Bay has a lot to clean up to make a playoff run, but Sacred Heart could be the dark horse in 1-A. "We look forward to the division tournament. We are hoping to finish in one of those top two spots. We feel like we have a chance to win a few. Lumberton is the team to beat though. They are really good," said O'Keefe about their season looking forward.

The Lady Crusaders had three players to score double figures. Kate Gallardo, Gracie Falla, and Sarah Gallardo had 16, 15, and 10 points respectively. Sylva-Bay had no players in double figures. The Saints hosts Discovery Christian School next Monday. Sacred Heart host Resurrection Catholic Tuesday.

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