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Point Park narrowly loses to No. 8 Indiana Wesleyan at Northwood (Fla.) Classic

Dec. 29, 2009 

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - The Point Park University women's basketball team opened the Northwood (Fla.) Classic with a narrow loss to No. 8 Indiana Wesleyan, 64-59, Tuesday.


Point Park (7-3 overall, 3-0 AMC) trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half and still trailed by 10 with eight minutes remaining.  But the Pioneers made it a two-point game, 59-57, with 39 seconds to play.

But Indiana Wesleyan (12-3), which was rated as high as No. 4 in the NAIA Division II this year, held on for the five-point victory by making 5 of 6 free throws in the final 35 seconds.

Point Park had its five-game winning streak snapped and lost for the first time since Nov. 21. The Pioneers registered season lows for points and field-goal percentage after shooting 32 percent (20 of 63) from the field.

The Pioneers face American Mideast Conference rival Cedarville Wednesday at 12 p.m. The Yellow Jackets (10-3, 2-1) defeated Northwood, 67-59, Tuesday and are ranked 11th in the country.

Freshman point guard April Austin (Penn Hills/North Catholic) paced Point Park with 17 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals. The 5-6 Austin had a cold shooting day, however, making just 5 of 18 field goals.

Senior guard/forward Brittney Wilson (West Mifflin/West Mifflin) had nine points in the first half and ended up with 13 points and five rebounds on 5 of 11 shooting.

Katy Auth (Bellevue/Northgate), a senior guard, came off the bench to chip in 10 points and four rebounds.

Point Park got off to an early lead at 7-4, but Indiana Wesleyan mounted to big runs in the first half to take control. The Wildcats used an 11-0 run to lead 15-7 at the 13:34 mark. After Point Park got within 16-12, Indiana Wesleyan rattled off a 13-0 spurt to take its biggest lead, 29-12 with 6:05 left in the half.

The Pioneers responded with a 10-2 run to make the score 31-22 with under two minutes to go. Heather Swedish (Sewickley/Avonworth) started the rally with one of her two 3-pointers and Austin capped off the spurt with a trey of her own.

Indiana Wesleyan took a 34-25 lead into the halftime locker room, although Austin hit a 3-pointer late in the half to get the lead under 10.

At the start of the second half, Point Park quickly cut the lead to five points, 34-29, but the Wildcats bumped the lead back to 10, 39-29, just as quickly.

Indiana Wesleyan, which is just three years removed from winning the NAIA Division II national title in 2006-07, led by 12, 48-36, with 12:58 to go, and was still ahead by double digits, 52-42, with 8:00 to go.

But a 10-3 Point Park run, which was highlighted by 3-pointers from Austin and Ashley Henderson (Greensburg/Greensburg Central Catholic), brought the Pioneers within 55-52 with 3:12 left.

Indiana Wesleyan was clinging to a 57-54 lead with 1:14 to go when its All-American candidate, Elaine Hessell, missed the front end of a one-on-one. But Hessell, who had 18 points and nine rebounds, got the offensive rebound and made a layup to put the Wildcats ahead, 59-54.

Austin then converted an old-fashioned 3-point play with a jumper and a free throw to pull Point Park within 59-57 with 39 seconds on the clock.

After that, Indiana Wesleyan made 5 of 6 free throws, to seal the win. Kayla Thompson made two trips to the line and made all four shots. After Thompson's first two foul shots, Point Park missed a 3-pointer, and when Thompson made two more free throws, the Indiana Wesleyan lead was 63-57 with 22 seconds left.

Thompson wound up with 15 points and was 2 of 6 from 3-point range to join Hessell as the only other Indiana Wesleyan player in double figures. The Wildcats had 10 players reach the scoring column and shot 43 percent (20 of 43) from the floor.

Point Park forced 19 turnovers and committed 11 turnovers. Both teams made 20 field goals, but Point Park had 17 more field goal attempts. Indiana Wesleyan held a 45-33 advantage in rebounds although 13 of Point Park's boards were on the offensive end.

Joncelyn Peterkin (West Mifflin/West Mifflin) chipped in five points, six rebounds, four blocks and two steals for Point Park.

Indiana Wesleyan won its first 10 games this year to reach No. 4 in the national rankings. Since then, the Wildcats have lost three times, but each of those losses have come to teams ranked in the top 15. A member of the Mid-Central College Conference, Indiana Wesleyan has been to the NAIA Division II tournament the last three years, which included a 38-0 record and a national title in 2006-07.

Indiana Wesleyan returned four starters from last year's team, which went 24-10 and reached the Sweet 16 of the national tournament. The Wildcats were ranked No. 14 in the preseason poll.

Wednesday's game versus No. 11 Cedarville will be broadcast on internet radio by the Cedarville radio crew. Visit the Point Park women's basketball web site for links to the broadcast, which begins at 12 p.m.