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Early run carries Shawnee State (12-3) to tourney title over Point Park (9-4)

Dec. 31, 2010

SOUTH EUCLID, Ohio – Shawnee State made a 9-0 run midway through the first half that ended up being the difference in a 70-61 victory over Point Park University in the championship game of the Notre Dame (OH) women’s basketball holiday tournament Friday afternoon.

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Pictured: April Austin had 19 points for Point Park Friday. File photo by Jack Megaw.

Shawnee State (12-3), a perennial power in NAIA women’s basketball, used the 9-0 run to build a 19-9 lead with 9:18 left in the first half. Although Point Park (9-4) outscored the Bears, 52-51, the rest of the way, the early deficit proved to be insurmountable for the Pioneers.

Point Park had a cold first half overall as the Pioneers shot just 24 percent (8 of 34) the first 20 minutes. Point Park rebounded by shooting 47 percent after halftime but could not overcome the slow start. The Pioneers opened the game by going 2 of 13 from the field.

The loss snapped a six-game winning streak for Point Park, which had not lost since a 70-63 defeat to nationally ranked Walsh on Nov. 30. Point Park had been 6-0 in December entering Friday’s game, and it fell one game short of tying the school record for consecutive wins. It is just the second time in history that the Pioneers are 9-4.

Point Park opened the tournament Thursday by holding on to beat host Notre Dame (OH), the #25 team in NAIA Division II, 63-62. The Pioneers led that game, 63-54, with 2:46 to go.

Shawnee State, which played in the NAIA DII national title game last year with a 29-7 record, took home the tourney title. The Bears beat Lake Erie, 68-66, in the opening round. The final tournament game saw Notre Dame (OH) come away with a 79-74 win over Lake Erie.

Point Park senior guard Ashley Henderson was named to the all-tournament team after scoring 45 points in the two games. The 5-10 guard from Greensburg had 20 points Friday, one day after putting up 25 in the opener. On Friday, she scored 15 points the second half to lead Point Park’s comeback attempt and also totaled nine rebounds on the day.

April Austin, the Pioneers’ point guard, scored 19 points on 6 of 3 shooting from long range. The sophomore from Penn Hills had 10 points the first half to keep Point Park within 33-21 at the break.

Shawnee State led by as many as 15 points, 62-47, and seemed to have things wrapped up with 4:35 remaining. But Point Park rattled off a 9-0 run that was made up of two treys by Austin and one by freshman Sarah Sandin to get within 62-56 with 1:31 left.

Although Henderson nailed a trey to cut the deficit to 68-61 with 14 seconds left, the Pioneers came up empty on a few other 3-point attempts in the final minute and were unable to tie the score.

In the end, the early run proved to be the difference as the game was played on even terms once Shawnee State took the 19-9 lead. The 9-0 run spanned just under four minutes and featured a 3-pointer from Keilee Gutrhrie and inside baskets by Guthrie and Catrice Mitchell.

Guthrie did not start but ended up with a team-high 18 points, which is 10 above her average. Abby Ballman, who had a career-high 27 points in the first round, joined Guthrie on the all-tourney team with 13 points. Jill Cropper, the only returning starter other than Ballman, had 15 points, and Alannah Sheets added 10.

After falling behind 33-21 at halftime, Point Park was able to get the deficit down to 35-26 the first five minutes of the second half. But the Bears ratcheted the lead back to 43-29 two minutes later.

Shawnee State joined the NAIA Division I ranks this year after being a yearly, national contender on the NAIA Division II level for a number of years. The Bears have been to 17 NAIA DII national tourneys under 27th-year coach Robin Hagen-Smith and were ranked No. 2 in NAIA DII for all of last year. Shawnee State has yet to break into the NAIA DI rankings, though.

Point Park returns to American Mideast Conference action by visiting cross town rival Carlow on Tuesday night. Tipoff at Oakland Catholic High School is 7:30 p.m. The Pioneers are 1-1 in AMC play.