A different team with different goals – Croup’s Corner

Written By Josh Croup, Sports Columnist

Their goal was to go undefeated in the regular season and advance to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) tournament and ultimately win a national championship.

The Point Park Women’s Basketball team fell short of that goal last year. They lost in the semi-finals of the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC) tournament.

Entering last year, the women had all the makings of a national tournament team. They had already made three consecutive trips to nationals, but last year’s team looked stronger on paper than the three previous teams.

Last year’s team returned all but one starter. Led by top rebounder and All-KIAC 1st Team sophomore Sam Weir, Point Park also returned Ja’Nia McPhatter after a medical redshirt ’13-14 season year that earned her KIAC All-Conference honors with her 15.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.

Kayla Kiriau returned for her senior year after the New Zealand native averaged 9 points per game the previous year.

Sophomore guard Kelly Johnson transferred from Clarion University and stepped up as a leader who could come up big in clutch situations. She ended up receiving KIAC Newcomer of the Year after averaging 17.1 points per game.

Weir went down with a season- ending injury just five games in as the Pioneers lost their top rebounder.

McPhatter went down in the regular season finale with a knee injury that sidelined her for the remainder of the season as the Pioneers lost their second leading rebounder and another leader.

Point Park barely survived the first round of the KIAC Tournament Quarterfinals when it defeated Midway 82-79. Johnson hit the go-ahead shot with 1:30 left to put Point Park ahead 80-79 in a game that had 12 ties and nine lead changes.

A team destined for the national tournament saw its season come to an end when it lost to eventual conference champion Asbury in the semi-finals 65-57.

None of the four players mentioned above from last year’s team that finished 25-5, 11-3 KIAC, return this year.

Tony Grenek returns for his fifth season as head coach in what may be his toughest test since his first season as head coach.

“It’s going to be a work in progress, it really is,” Grenek said after Saturday’s season opener. “They’re great kids to coach, it’s just going to be working with them and trying to get a little better every day.”

In its season opener, Point Park was out-rebounded 51-40 and struggled to score at times in the game.

Point Park led 20-10 at the end of the first quarter Saturday against Bluefield, but was then outscored 20-6 in the second quarter.

Point Park shot 33.8 percent from the field, 9.1 percent from behind the arc and 66.7 percent from the line.

With a loss in the season opener, the goal to go undefeated in the regular season is out of the question.

In the past couple seasons, Point Park’s end goal was nationals.

Grenek said his coaching staff hasn’t even brought up the thought of the tournament to the players.

“We haven’t mentioned the national tournament one time this year to this team,” Grenek said. “Generally when we have a meeting, that’s our goal is to get to the national tournament. We haven’t said that one time.”

The goals are different. They have to be. Point Park has a young team this year made up of talented newcomers and players transitioning from acting as role-players to starters.

This year, the focus is on remaining patient and improving before the start of conference play.

“We have so many different faces,” Grenek said. “We’ve got some youth in a lot of areas. It’s going to take time for us to be good. What we need to do is hone in and try and get better before our first conference game. That’s really our goal right now.”