Pioneers increase conference lead with three wins

Written By Michael Richter

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Last week, the Point Park women’s basketball team garnered three Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC) victories, which increased the team’s win streak to eight and boosted its overall record for the year to 19-2. 

The Pioneers defeated Cincinnati Christian 70-54 on Jan. 20 and extended Point Park’s perfect home record to 7-0. 

With less than five minutes into the game, Point Park produced a 10-0 lead setting the tone for the rest of the game. Cincinnati Christian did not lead once throughout the entire game. 

Starting guard Kelly Johnson led the Pioneers in points with 22, and she stole four balls. Currently, Johnson averages 3.53 steals per game, which ranks her as seventh in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division II. 

Pioneers starting guard Kayla Kiriau added 18 points. Moreover, with 15 minutes off the bench, Celina DiPietro scored 15 points – nine of which came from successful three-point shot attempts. 

On Jan. 23, Point Park started a two-game road trip in Kentucky with a 94-78 win over Brescia. 

For a second consecutive instance, the Pioneers created a double-digit lead – a 14-0 lead this time – at an early juncture in the game. Early dominance led to a comfortable 57-34 lead at halftime for Point Park. With such a lofty lead and the team facing down another game the next day, the Pioneers bench saw significant playing time in the second half. None of the Point Park players had more than 24 minutes on the court. 

“Our utilization of putting all of our players on the court is a big reason why we’ve been so good as of late,” Kiriau said. 

Leading the team in three-pointers with three against Brescia, starting guard Alexa Xenakis scored 16 points, and she only missed one shot. Xenakis’ shooting abilities are a large contributing factor to the Pioneers’ present win streak. 

“I have been more confident in myself lately because I know that I am put on the court to shoot the ball,” Xenakis said. 

Against Brescia, Johnson’s 20 points led Point Park in scoring, and Kiriau racked up 11 points from the field. 

The following day – only 14 hours after their triumph over Brescia – the Pioneers recorded a come-from-behind victory versus Midway 77-69 in their second straight game in Kentucky. 

The team’s eighth straight victory came with difficulty. Midway through the first half, the Pioneers were down 16-3. However, the Pioneers battled their way back, cutting Midway’s lead at the half to a four-point, 37-33 advantage. 

Midway grotesquely outshot Point Park in the first half – Midway had a field goal percentage of 51.4 percent, but Point Park only managed to make 32.4 percent of its shots from the field. 

“We were extremely sluggish in the first half, and I think a lot of that has to do with playing back-to-back games,” Pioneers head coach Tony Grenek said.

 
The Pioneers turned it around in the second half, shooting 51.7 percent from the field, and they limited Midway to a lowly 38.2 field goal percentage. 

“We switched from a man-to-man defense, which requires players to be very aggressive, to a 2-3 zone in the second half, which allowed the players to conserve energy,” Grenek said. 

DiPietro, who suffered a few injuries at the beginning of the season, scored a season-high 15 points with 19 minutes off the bench against Midway. She converted a lay-up that gave Point Park a 55-54 lead – its first lead of the night. 

“Celina is a tremendous shooter, and she is just starting to hit her stride,” Grenek said. 

Once again, Johnson led the Pioneers in scoring, with 23 points, and she amassed six steals. And starting forward Ja’Nia McPhatter scored eight points and stole seven balls. 

“We woke up and stepped up big in the second half,” Johnson said. 

Next up on the schedule for Point Park is IU Southeast at home on Jan.30, and Grenek believes his team is in prime form. 

“We strive to hit our peak form at the right time of the season,” Grenek said, “and our win streak is displaying that.” 

 

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