New conference, same results for Point Park women's team
Point Park women's basketball coach Tony Grenek expected his team would have to take its lumps at the end of November.
Coming off a loss, the Pioneers were facing four-time defending Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champion Indiana Southeast on the road, and they were still without senior point guard April Austin, a North Catholic graduate.
“But being down at one point 19 points, and 13 at the half, we came back and beat them in double-overtime,” Grenek said. “I think that win kind of catapulted the rest of our season.”
With only five games remaining in the regular season, the Pioneers have lost just twice since beating Indiana Southeast on Nov. 30. Building on last season's 23-7 record in which it advanced to the NAIA Division II National Tournament, Point Park is 19-4 overall and 10-3 to lead the KIAC in its first season in the conference.
In just two years with Point Park, Grenek is 42-11. He inherited a team that was 14-13 in each of the previous two seasons.
According to Grenek, he had the benefit last season of stepping into the position with seniors at center, forward and guard, and his job was primarily to teach them that they were good enough to compete nationally. Point Park ended the year ranked No. 21 in the NAIA Division II top 25 coaches poll.
This season, Point Park's smaller size has led to a more attacking man-to-man style of defense. The Pioneers also are running more and getting more baskets off the transition. Their scoring defense is ranked 12th in NAIA Division II at just 57.3 points per game. At 10.5 per game, their scoring margin is rated 28th in the nation.
The Pioneers also had to play the first part of the season without Austin, who came to Point Park with three and a half years of eligibility remaining after a half-year at Division I Dayton.
“That was one of the first times in my whole career that I've had to sit out that many games,” Austin said. “It was definitely a different perspective watching the whole time.”
Grenek said Austin and senior guard Emily Schartner, a Finleyville native who transferred from Division I NJIT, are all-conference players who have picked up where they left off last year. Sophomore forward Ja'Nia McPhatter leads the team in scoring with 15.1 points per game, followed by Schartner at 12.7 and Austin with 11.3.
“Our returning players are now accustomed to winning and are out to compete nationally, and they just have that mindset that we're not going to lose no matter what,” Grenek said. “I thought it was unbelievable that our team went 7-2 without April and playing point guard by committee. But to be in that situation without April shows how much our team has matured.”