Point Park Back In Form With Senior Day Win


Point Park ended its regular season with a victory against IU East. Photo courtesy Stephen Pope

PPU WBB held IU East to the second lowest shooting percentage in a half this season. Photo courtesy Stephen Pope

The Point Park University women’s basketball team won its regular season finale, 84-67, over KIAC opponent IU East Saturday to end the regular season at 24-4 overall, 11-3 KIAC.

“I thought we showed a lot of good signs today,” coach Tony Grenek said. “We haven’t really been playing well lately and have been a little bit sloppy. I told the team at halftime that I thought we moved the ball really well in the first half, finding the open player and knocking the shots down. Every team goes through a funk, hopefully we’re breaking ours right now.”

Point Park was led by sophomore guard Kelly Johnson’s 20 points, seven assist and six rebounds.

Junior guard Alexa Xenakis added 17 points while senior guard Natasha Moss had 14 points and eight rebounds on her senior day.

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Additionally, sophomore guard Celina DiPietro (10 points/eight rebounds), senior guard Kayla Kiriau (seven points) and Carly Forse (seven points/five rebounds) were among the offensive leaders.

The Point Park defense overwhelmed IU East in the first half as the Red Wolves made only 7 of 37 field goals and 0 of 11 3-point attempts the first 20 minutes. That was in addition to nine forced turnovers. The result was Point Park being up by 17 at the half, 44-27. Although the teams played even the second half with 40 points apiece, the damage was done.

The Pioneers allowed three IU East (17-13, 7-7 KIAC) assists, which is one more than the fewest assists by an opponent this season (Penn State Fayette had two Dec. 9). Point Park also forced 21 turnovers and grabbed nine steals.

“I think we did well on the defensive end and that really sparks our offense to come out strong and we’re trying to feed off our defense and if it goes well then everything comes together,” said Johnson.

IU East was led by guard Mackenzie Campbell’s 20 points. Both forward Brooke Packer and guard Kristen Miller had 11 points. Forward Keragan Niehoff had seven points and 14 rebounds.

Point Park started the game in the lead, 19-7, as IU East missed its first seven shots 14 of its first 15 shots The Red Wolves scored the next four points, however, Point Park responded with an 8-1 run to push the lead to 27-12.

At halftime, the Pioneers led 44-27. IU East shot 18.9 percent from the field which is the second lowest shooting percentage by an opponent in a half this season (Washington Adventist 18.5 percent Nov. 24).

The Red Wolves struck first in the second half as Miller made two consecutive three point shots to cut the deficit to 44-33 with 19:01 to play.

Point Park however trailed for 12 seconds in the entire contest and its lead never went below double digits. It used its depth to tire the Red Wolves. Point Park now has ended the regular season with four losses for the second consecutive year.

The game served as senior day for guard/forward Vianka Cotton, guard Kayla Kiriau, forward Natasha Moss as well as Danika Adams and Maria Romano of the JV Team. Each was recognized pregame for their respective contributions to the team.

Kiriau’s hometown is Wellington, New Zealand, and had her twin sister Shanay in attendance on her senior day.

“It was just a special moment to have the people that I love the most here for me,” Kiriau said. “I like having any of my family come and watch so it was nice have her there, especially with Tash (Moss), Cotton and Danika, we came in together so it was nice coming in and having that strong bond with those four girls especially.”

Each senior made an impact in the game and with 9:36 left in the first half, all three had scored.

The Point Park first round home playoff game has been pushed from Tuesday to Wednesday because of weather related cancellations that affected several KIAC games this week. The Pioneers will play either IU Southeast, Midway or Cincinnati Christian.

“I’m very happy that it’s pushed back a day because now we can take tomorrow off,” said Grenek. “I like to always have two days to prepare for a game and after playing today it would have been tough to go back to practice tomorrow and Monday. Now we can rest the kids a little bit and give them the Sunday off. Hopefully it works in our favor.”

Looking ahead to the KIAC Tournament, the Pioneers need to win their fourth consecutive conference tournament title in order to return to the NAIA D-II National Tournament. Rio Grande earned the first bid by winning the KIAC regular season title.

“This was a good game to spark momentum,” Kiriau said. “Our whole bench was really playing together instead of just three or four people playing together. We’re peaking at the right time, which is what coach (Grenek) wants.”


My take: Point Park finds itself in familiar territory winning three out of four games to close the season. This happened in each of the past three seasons as well. Perhaps this is a good omen for the Pioneers as the past three seasons each resulted in berths into the national tournament in Sioux City, Iowa. While the task is tougher in the sense of winning out against the most complete KIAC to date it is nothing different from years past. Point Park has once again been overlooked by those that rate the polls and while in the KIAC had to win the conference tournament to earn its way to Iowa. This year the road could have been easier by winning the regular season berth and then trying to strengthen its place in the conference tournament, but now there is no safety net. Rio Grande understandably is considered the favorite and have not lost since January against this same Point Park team. When the two teams met for round two, the Pioneers were out of gas, seemingly beaten to each rebound and unable to finish even the most simple plays. Now however, Point Park is playing much closer to form and just in time for the conference tournament which will start Wednesday.

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