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Women’s basketball faces starting lineup changes, loses season opener

Written By Michael Richter

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With two seconds left on the game clock, Bluefield College — up 63-62 — inbounded the ball from half court, but Point Park guard Shaniya Rivers intercepted the pass. However, Rivers’ shot attempt from half court was futile, as she did not get it off before the final buzzer.

Point Park women’s basketball team, which finished with a 25-5 overall record last year, lost its inaugural game of the 2015-16 season at home to Bluefield 63-62.

“It’s only Oct. 31,” said Pioneers head coach Tony Grenek. “But we got to find a way to get better, and we got to work at some things.”

Grenek debuted a starting lineup comprised of three new starters in the season opener. Guard Kelly Johnson, who led the team in scoring during the 2014-15 season, left the team during the offseason. Forward Ja’Nia McPhatter graduated during the offseason, and she is now an assistant coach for the team. Since Point Park has a drastically different starting lineup this season, the team still needs time to gel.

“I told people at the beginning of this year that this is going to take time,” Grenek said. “We have a lot of new faces. We lost kids who could really put the ball in the hoop.”

The Pioneers pressured Bluefield’s offense early in the game with a full-court press. Bluefield committed 13 turnovers — eight of which were Point Park steals — in the first quarter of the game, which allowed the Pioneers to attain a 20-10 lead at the end of the first quarter. Pioneers Forward Carly Forse and guard Alexa Xenakis recorded two steals respectively in the first quarter.

“We wreaked havoc in the first quarter,” Grenek said.

Forse tossed a ball intended for teammate Rivers out of bounds just a little over a minute into the second quarter — the first of seven Pioneers turnovers in the second quarter, which enabled Bluefield to go on a 20-6 run throughout the second quarter, giving the visiting team a 30-26 edge at the half.

Grenek attributed the team’s downfall in the second quarter to subpar offensive play.

“It wasn’t poor defense,” Grenek said. “We only scored six points, and that’s frustrating.”

Both teams possessed a field goal percentage lower than 30 at the half — Bluefield made 27 percent of its shots from the field, and Point Park made 25.8 percent of its shots.

Bluefield maintained a lead for the majority of the third quarter. With 25.6 seconds left in the penultimate quarter, Rivers tied the game at 43 on a layup.

The fourth quarter produced back-and-forth action from beginning to end; it encompassed six lead changes and one tie. In the game’s final quarter, Point Park reverted back to a full-court press, which enable it to garner more scoring opportunities. With 7:16 left in the game and the Pioneers down by one, center Baylee Buleca intercepted a pass on Bluefield’s side of the court and scored on an undefended layup to give Point Park its first lead since the second quarter.

Buleca racked up 14 points, six rebounds and connected on 60 percent of her shots from the field against Bluefield — a team leader in each category. Her effort was rewarded with the player of the game award.

“I think I didn’t do bad,” Buleca said.

As Bluefield was ahead 61-58 with 36.4 seconds remaining in the game, the Pioneers called a timeout. On the ensuing possession, Xenakis scored on a layup, cutting Bluefield’s lead to 61-60. Bluefield retaliated with a three-pointer at 23 seconds to go — which was the game-winning shot.

“We didn’t work hard enough,” said Xenakis. “It was an up and down game.”

Xenakis scored nine points against Bluefield, matching her season average from last season. Moreover, she totaled six steals. Rivers added nine
points as well.

Bluefield bested the Pioneers in the rebound department 51-40 — the visitors even amassed 17 offensive rebounds, which gave the team multiple second chance scoring opportunities. Bluefield also edged Point Park in field goal percentage and free throw percentage.

Next up for the Pioneers is Northwestern Ohio at home on Nov. 6.

“We need to be focused,” Xenakis said. “We made too many stupid mistakes [against Bluefield].”

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