Point Park Women Use Second Half To Beat IU East


Point Park women’s basketball sophomore guard Kelly Johnson had her second consecutive 30-plus point performance scoring 31 in a 103-79 victory Saturday at IU East. Photo courtesy Stephen Pope

The receiving votes Point Park University women’s basketball team put up for the fourth time this season defeating KIAC opponent IU East by a 103-79 score Sunday.

This point total is the most Point Park (21-3, 8-2 KIAC) has ever scored against a KIAC opponent. Leading the way for the Pioneers was sophomore guard Kelly Johnson who scored 31 points on 13-20 shooting, had 10 assists, grabbed eight rebounds and added seven steals.

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Junior guard Alexa Xenakis set a season high with 25 points, shooting 8-13 from the field. Xenakis’s 25 points are one off her career high which was set 1/11/14 in a 94-83 victory at Alice Lloyd.

Junior forward Ja’Nia McPhatter scored 17 points while guard Celina DiPietro who started her first game of the season added nine points of her own.

IU East (16-11, 6-5 KIAC) was led by forward Keragan Niehoff’s double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds. Da’Sha Boyd had 12 points in 16 minutes off the bench and leading scorer Tia King was held to 10 points on 5-18 shooting from the field.

The Red Wolves frustrated Point Park in the first half shooting 43.5 percent from the field. Coming into the game, IU East ranked in total scoring offense and held a 16-3 advantage in points off turnovers, 8-2 in fastbreak points and 14-8 in bench points.

The Pioneers were called for 16 team fouls in the first half with six players all drawing multiple foul calls. IU East used this as an advantage making 18 of 20 free throws. At halftime, it was the Red Wolves holding a 48-40 lead.

“The first thing we did when we came into the locker room is to quit making excuses because it was 16-6 in foul calls and went to the foul line 20 times to our two,” coach Tony Grenek said. “The law of averages especially in athletics tends to balance out by the end. We were slow in the first half, we were sluggish and IU East is an excellent team.”

Point Park was unfazed however going on a 32-6 run that ended up being the difference in the game.

“What it was that we started going inside in the second half,” said Grenek. “We were living and dying by the jump shot and we’ve really been doing that all season. We had a height advantage on IU East and we needed to take advantage of it and I think Ja’Nia, Carly Forse, Natasha Moss and even Kelly Johnson were able to post up and the guards were looking inside. We can’t just come down and fling a 15 footer on a one-on-four every single time because if you’re struggling shooting the ball, you have to find other ways to score.”

In total, the Pioneers scored 60 points in the paint and outscored IU East by 24 in that statistic. A big difference in this was McPhatter who shook off several defenders to establish a post presence to grab rebounds and finish shots.

“It’s taken a while because she’s coming off injury, but it’s coming back,” Grenek said. “We talked yesterday and she told me she was frustrated and that her jumper wasn’t going down. I told her that she wasn’t a jump shooter until this year and you honed your game after your injury. Now that she’s pretty much healed up, I told her to go back to the old way and start attacking the rim because no one can stop her.”

Point Park’s run visibly frustrated the Red Wolves who were discouraged when they were unable to make baskets in an effort to counter the Pioneer offensive attack.

The Pioneers shot 72.7 percent from the field in the second half which is the highest percentage in a half under Grenek. Point Park also ended up winning the fast break scoring by a 26-12 margin.

The Pioneers came into the week ranked 27th. Madonna which was ranked 25th beat No. 20 Sienna Heights 71-59, however lost to receiving votes Cornerstone 89-66. St. Thomas (Florida), ranked 26th had a perfect 3-0 week defeating Warner 65-46, Northwood 64-52 and Ave Maria 70-50.

Point Park next will face Rio Grande Tuesday at 5:30. Rio Grande currently a one game lead in the KIAC at 20-6 overall and 9-1 in the KIAC. The Red Storm are on an 11 game winning streak with their last loss coming to the Pioneers 74-70 on Jan. 7 when the two teams played at Rio Grande. This game has very important implications as the winner will have a significant advantage in who will win the KIAC regular season title and earn an automatic berth into the NAIA National Tournament.

“They are probably playing the best basketball out of anybody in our conference right now,” said Grenek. “They are well coached, have a great point guard, have good size and are a historic program, so we have our work cut out for us. Tuesday will be a huge challenge for us. That’s what makes college athletics fun, you want to be in a great game like Tuesday night where there is a lot on the line. It makes life fun and that’s what makes sports fun. I know we will be up to the challenge and I know Rio’s going to be up for the challenge. Win or lose if you do your best on either side, you’re going to be looking at two great basketball teams battling it out on Tuesday.”


My take: Point Park turned a corner in halftime. Coach Tony Grenek has a way with his players that many do not have. His players responded to the challenges he set in the locker room. This is the biggest win thus far of Point Park’s season, however all of the forward progress from this week needs to be channeled for Rio Grande Tuesday. That is the biggest game of the season by far. If Point Park can win its remaining regular season games then it will be off to Sioux City, IA for a fourth consecutive year. The team has been waiting for this moment, now it is time to see if it will capitalize.

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