Point Park falls to rival Rio Grande in KIAC showdown

Written By Michael Richter

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photos by Madison Turiczek
Junior guard Ja’Nia McPhatter crosses up her opponent during the game.

Point Park women’s basketball team secured second place in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC) North Division and a first-round home playoff game after going 1-1 against conference opponents last week, which altered the team’s record to 22-4.

On Feb. 10, Rio Grande – the first place team in the KIAC North Division – defeated the Pioneers in a hard-fought battle, 73-61. The loss marked the second straight loss at home for Point Park.

Against the Red Storm, Point Park went 9-16 from the foul line, which equates to a 56.3 free throw percentage. From the field, the Pioneers made 39.1 percent of their shots. The team made two of its 15 attempted three-point shots.

“We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities,” said starting forward Ja’Nia McPhatter.

Rio Grande scored the inaugural points and did not relinquish its lead throughout the game’s entirety. Nonetheless, the game was hardly a one-sided affair. Point Park came close to eclipsing Rio Grande’s lead late in the first half.

With Point Park down 29-17, freshman center Baylee Buleca entered the game off the bench with approximately six minutes to go in the first half. Buleca helped spark the Pioneers offense – she scored all of her six points in the last few minutes of the first half. Her first basket was off a streaking pass from starting point guard Kelly Johnson, which initiated a 15-7 Pioneers run to end the half, cutting the Red Storm’s lead at halftime to 36-32.

However, Point Park’s momentum stalled late in the game. In the remaining nine minutes, Rio Grande went on a 23-13 run after possessing a two-point lead. The Pioneers missed countless shots in the paint. In the game’s final stretch, the Pioneersmade a meager 30.1 percent of their shots from the field in the half.

“We probably missed 25 layups in the second half,” Pioneers coach Tony Grenek said. “When you miss as many shots as we did, it’s impossible to win. We didn’t deserve to win.”

McPhatter led Point Park in points with 19, Johnson added 12 points and starting guard Alexa Xenakis scored nine.

The Pioneers defeated Indiana University Kokomo on the road 88-70 on Feb. 14. All of Point Park’s players who played in the game scored points, which is the fourth time that happened this season.

About six minutes into the game, Point Park took control. From 14:24 left in the first half to 12:46, the Pioneers scored 12 unanswered points, which put the team up by 11 points. Five of the team’s players connected on three-point shots in the game’s opening eight minutes. Following that 12-0 run, the Pioneers maintained a comfortable lead for the rest of the game.

Johnson’s 26 points led the team; she also amassed seven assists and eight steals. McPhatter produced 13 points. The Pioneers bench had a strong showing: forward Natasha Moss put up nine points while guards Carly Corcoran and Celina DiPietro both respectively generated eight points.

Additionally last week, Kelly Johnson was awarded the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division II Player of the Week for the week of Feb. 2-8, during which she averaged 32 points, eight assists and 6.5 steals per game.

“It kind of means nothing to me, but it’s nice to give our program national recognition,” Johnson said regarding the award.

Next up for Point Park is a home game versus Carlow at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 18. 

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