Point Park Globe

Croup’s Corner – Bitter Grande finale

Written By Josh Croup, Sports Columnist

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This isn’t how anybody thought it would end. I’m still in shock, along with everyone else that has followed either basketball team this year.

For the first time since the 2009-10 season, neither the men’s nor women’s basketball teams are in the postseason.

There was so much hope, so much optimism in the beginning weeks of the season. At full strength, both teams had the potential to make runs at the River States Conference (RSC) championships.

But both teams experienced hardships and were faced with obstacles that were just too challenging to overcome.

But man, did they try.

That’s how I’ll remember these two teams. Grit, determination and persistence carried them each through 2017.

The 2016 portion of the program saw both teams hit their strides, but the new year brought new teams to the court that struggled to get in the win column.

MEN’S BASKETBALL

The men jumped out to a 3-0 start in RSC play, turning their season around after dropping the first five contests against mostly ranked teams.

Their biggest challenge had nothing to do with the court, but with the grades.

Point Park lost two of its top three leading scorers in Sa’iid Allen and Kenny Strong due to poor academic performance. Injuries off and on to key players, combined with inconsistent offensive efforts, plagued the Pioneers in 2017.

The final win of the season was historic, and it looked like it was going to propel the Pioneers into a miraculous postseason run. The Pioneers upset the No. 7 team in the country in IU East on Feb. 3 to keep their playoff hopes alive.

But that upset victory and 3-0 start to the conference schedule will get lost in the rubble.

The debris included a 2-12 finish to the conference schedule, a 1-15 record in games away from the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) South and the fifth 20-loss season in the 49-year history of the program.

An 84-71 loss at Rio Grande Friday knocked the Pioneers out of playoff contention.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

The women’s struggles were just beginning when 2016 ended.

Tey started 4-0 in the RSC, but lost star senior forward Carly Forse for the season during the third game of that stretch. That was after losing their leading scorer Sam Weir five games into the season.

They lost two tough non-conference games to end 2016, and gave us a preview of what was ahead. Point Park had to figure out how to score and win without two of its star players.

Ja’Nia McPhatter stepped up during 2017 and was hailed by head coach Tony Grenek as the biggest surprise of the season. McPhatter couldn’t carry Point Park by herself, but did everything she could to try.

The Pioneers needed one win last weekend at either Rio Grande or West Virginia Tech to clinch a playoff spot. There was still a chance.

But Maryssa Agurs, the second-leading scorer behind McPhatter all season with 11 points per game, suffered a hand injury in practice in the week leading up to the biggest weekend series of the season.

Point Park couldn’t make up for 36.3 points per game out of the lineup due to injury in Weir, Agurs and Forse.

A 92-78 loss to Rio Grande and an 89-62 loss to West Virginia Tech capped off a rough season that left its own cloud of dust similar to the men’s rubble.

Point Park went 4-9 in RSC games after winning its first four. The Pioneers lost four of five contests in February that could have put them in the playoffs. Their final overall record of 18-12 represents the most losses in the Grenek era.

I wish there were a better ending for the handful of seniors on both teams that have had significant impacts during their Point Park careers, but I guess this is just how it has to end.

It just wasn’t our season. It wasn’t our year. Hopefully the 2017 portion of next season will be kinder than the 2017 chapter of this season.

 

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