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KIAC Tournament Preview

KIAC Women's Basketball Tournament Preview: #1 Pioneers open up Feb. 25

Feb. 25, 2014 at 12:00 p.m. ET


First Round -- Feb. 25
No. 8 Brescia (8-21) at No. 1 Point Park (26-4), 7 p.m. (CCAC-South) / WATCH LIVE / LISTEN LIVE / LIVE STATS
Semifinals -- Feb. 28 (at Alice Lloyd)
No. 1 Point Park vs. No. 5 Berea (Ky.), 5:30 p.m. LISTEN LIVE (PPU Broadcast) / WATCH LIVE (KIAC Broadcast)
Finals -- March 1 (at Alice Lloyd)
TBA, if necessary, 1 p.m.


By Zachary Weiss, Point Park Athletic Communications Student Assistant

With the regular season at an end, Tuesday, Feb. 25  marks the start of the KIAC Women’s Basketball Tournament with the champion earning an automatic bid into Sioux City, Iowa, and the NAIA Division II National Championship.

Point Park head coach Tony Grenek sees this as a new season for the No. 1-seed Pioneers (26-4, 13-4 KIAC) with each game possibly being the last. Point Park opens KIAC Tournament play with a first-round home game versus No. 8 seed Brescia (8-21, 5-12 KIAC) on Feb. 25 at 7 p.m.

“Now it’s the playoffs, and everyone is trying to peak at the right time,” Grenek said.

According to the head coach of No. 2 seed Asbury, Bart Flener, the KIAC Tournament is wide open and there for the taking.

“I think especially this year it’s the toughest and deepest it’s been in my six years as a coach in the conference,” Flener said. “Any of the eight teams in the tournament could go and win it, and that’s not just something you say. This year, that’s really accurate. Brescia just got done beating Alice Lloyd Sunday, so it is definitely deeper and we don’t get the respect nationwide that I wish we did. I could see someone in our conference winning a game or two in the national tournament and showing that we can play with folks around the nation.”

Point Park is the top seed in the KIAC Tournament after sharing the KIAC regular season title with Asbury (13-4 KIAC). Due to conference rules, the Pioneers earned the top seed since they won both meetings against Alice Lloyd while Asbury went 1-1 versus the Eagles.

The following is a breakdown of each of the eight teams in the 2013-14 KIAC Women’s Basketball Tournament Feb. 25-March 1.

1. Point Park [26-4, 13-4 KIAC]-

Point Park comes into the tournament with a three-game winning streak to end the regular season. The team defeated Carlow, Midway and Cincinnati Christian last week to secure the top seed.

The Pioneers are led in scoring by freshman center Sam Weir [14.8 points per game] and sophomore guard Alexa Xenakis [10.0 ppg], although each of the starting five players are averaging at least 8.9 points.

Weir ranks fifth in NAIA D-II in blocks per game with 3.13 and also fifth in total blocks with 94. The team is second in offensive rebounds per game with 18.06, fourth in total rebounds per game with 46.9 and total offensive rebounds with 1,407.

Coming into the tournament, Grenek is pleased with the way his team defended the final week of the season.

“We seem to have turned the corner a little bit on the defensive end starting in the second half against Carlow," Grenek said. "We’re playing our best ball of the season.”

The Pioneers will host Brescia Tuesday at 7 p.m.

“It was huge that we were able to come home to play the last four games if you count our playoff game," Grenek said. "Carlow is five minutes away. Being able to host Tuesday is kind of refreshing, you don’t have to hop on that bus and make a seven or eight hour trip. We’ve regrouped and hopefully we can make a tournament run.”

In just its second season as members of the KIAC, Point Park has already earned respect from its opponents.

“Point Park brings some of the same things we bring,” Asbury Head Coach Bart Flener said. “We both have considerable depth and it’s hard to know who to focus on. Weir and Forse both bring some strong inside play to the table and that is another advantage for Point Park. They know how to win, they have 26 wins, which is one of the top number of wins nationwide this year.”

“I think Point Park is a good team and a tough matchup for us [Alice Lloyd],” Ariel Nickell said. “They are better at playing their style than we are at playing their style, and we are better playing our style than they are at playing our style.”

2. Asbury [23-6, 13-4 KIAC]-

Asbury comes into the tournament on a four-game winning streak, the longest current total in the KIAC, after a home win against Alice Lloyd this past Thursday.

“I’m really proud of our team and the way we were able to finish the game against Alice Lloyd last Thursday,” Asbury head coach Bart Flener said. “It was a good indicator after we’d had a couple of close games we had lost in late game situations, one against Point Park and one against Alice Lloyd. It was nice to be able to come back the final week of the regular season and win two close games and be able to execute those late game situations. I think it gives our team a lot of confidence going into the tournament this week.”

Asbury is third in the NAIA DII in total rebounding margin and seventh in 3-point percentage at 36.1 percent. Guard Ellie Steiner leads the team averaging 13 points per game and is an 86.4-percent shooter from the free throw line. Both Annissia Wood [12.9 ppg] and Kylie Gorby [12.1 ppg] average double figures. In addition, Steiner has made 82 3-pointers, good for 13 in NAIA D-II.

The Eagles split their meetings against Point Park this season losing at Point Park, 79-78, Jan. 25 and winning, 81-65, at home Feb. 15. Asbury’s depth has caused Point Park trouble as Sarah Sticklen has averaged 13 points in two games against the Pioneers while Catie Fletcher and A.J. Lewis have scored 10 and eight points off the bench in single game opportunities. From a rebounding aspect, Kelli Rinehart grabbed nine rebounds in both meetings versus Point Park, and Sam Burr has averaged 7.2 this season and 209 for this year alone.

Asbury will host Cincinnati Christian Tuesday at 6 p.m. Asbury has won both regular season match-ups, 78-72, at home and 91-87 on the road.

“They present some matchup difficulties for us with their size,”Flener said. We try to get the game going a little faster, we have more depth than they do and more speed. They have more size than us so they gave us a half-court game. It will definitely be competitive.”

3. Alice Lloyd [18-8, 13-4 KIAC]-  

Alice Lloyd comes into the conference tournament having dropped its last two games. Had the team defeated Asbury and Brescia in the final week of regular season play, it would have been the top seed in the tournament.

Alice Lloyd NAIA Division II All-American forward Ariel Nickell says that the losses are out of their system, and now are driven to succeed in the tournament.

“I think it will and has motivated us, because we know what it feels like to have something taken from us, first place and we don’t want it to happen again,” Nickell said.

With the combined forces of Nickell and Taylor Arthur, Alice Lloyd ranks first in NAIA D-II in defensive rebounds per game with 32.320. Nickell [13.6] and Arthur [11.08] rank first and fifth in total rebounds per game. Nickell leads NAIA D-II in points per game with 26.2 and her 2,550 career points are the most in program history.

In addition, Carla Booth ranks 12th in three point field goal percentage shooting at a 42.2 percent clip, while she is 13th in points per game with 19.76 and is also 13th in assists per game with 5.16. In total an Alice Lloyd player has been named KIAC Player of the Week four times.

Versus Point Park, Alice Lloyd lost 91-84 Dec. 7 then lost at home Jan. 11 94-83, just one of two conference home games the team dropped this season.

Alice Lloyd will host Midway Tuesday at 7 p.m. The two teams split their match ups this season.

“It’s going to be a tough game,” Nickell said. “We’re going to have to come focused and prepared. No game in this tournament will be an easy game.”

4.  Indiana University Southeast [16-11, 11-6 KIAC]-

Indiana University Southeast comes into this game winning five of its last six games and ended its season with a 99-33 win against St. Louis College of Pharmacy. Heather Wheat leads the team with 17 points per game and 121 assists. Megan Cureton adds 12 points per game. Mary Dye has made a big impact as a freshman with her 8.6 ppg as well as a team leading 5.9 rebounds per game.

Against the Pioneers, Point Park won in New Albany, Ind. 79-77 in overtime on Jan. 4 but IU Southeast evened the season series with a 70-66 victory on Feb. 8.

The Grenadiers will host Berea Tuesday at 6 p.m. IU Southeast has won both match ups between the teams this season.

5. Berea [13-12, 9-8 KIAC]

Berea ended its season with a 99-81 victory this past Saturday against Brescia and comes into the tournament as the fifth seed. Johnesa Warren leads the KIAC in steals per game [3.48] and assists per game [6.32] and is third and fourth in NAIA D-II in those statistics. Erika Parks has made 94 three point shots on the season which is sixth in NAIA D-II.  The two average 18.2 and 18.1 points per game respectively.

Berea won both games against Point Park this season and in doing so, gave the Pioneers their first loss of the season. The first meeting was at Berea and the Mountaineers won 65-57. At Point Park, Berea won again, this time by a 92-86 score.

Berea will travel to face IU Southeast Tuesday at 6 p.m. in hopes of moving on to face either Point Park or Brescia.

6. Midway [11-16, 8-9 KIAC]

Midway went 1-1 on its trip to Pittsburgh losing to Point Park but defeating Carlow 68-54 to end its season. Me’Lisa Martinez is the team’s leading scorer with 14.6 points per game and 6.25 rebounds. Miranda Rone [12.5] and Star Armstrong [10.1] also are top scoring options for Midway. As a whole the team ranks eighth in NAIA D-II in steals per game with 11.963. The team also has 323 steals on the season with places them 11th.

Versus Point Park, the Pioneers won both contests 67-63 Feb. 1 and 81-48 this past Saturday.

Midway will travel to Alice Lloyd where the two team will face the winner of Asbury vs Cincinnati Christian on Friday.

7. Cincinnati Christian [12-17, 7-10 KIAC]

Cincinnati Christian ended its first ever regular season with a split, falling Saturday to Point Park but defeating Carlow this past Friday 59-41. Amanda Baute leads the team with 20.97 points per game which is eighth overall in NAIA D-II. Baute is also fifth in total rebounds with 303 and seventh in total scoring with 608 points. Sydney Mason also is a key member of Cincinnati Christian with her 154 total assists, good for ninth in NAIA D-II and 13.4 points per game. Alizabeth Moorman [14.6] and Brianna Ruffin [10] are also key parts to the team’s offense.

Point Park won both meetings against Cincinnati Christian 66-64 on Jan. 31 and then 75-65 this past Saturday.

Cincinnati Christian will travel to Wilmore, Ky. to face second seeded Asbury, a team they have played two close games against.

“I think Cincinnati Christian is a tough matchup for us,” Grenek said of Cincinnati Christian. “They have three really good players and are used to more of a half-court style.”

8. Brescia [7-21, 4-12 KIAC]

Brescia comes into this game winning three out of its past four games including an 85-81 victory Sunday at Alice Lloyd. Julie Whitfill leads the team with 23.8 points per game, good for fourth in NAIA D-II. Four starters average double figures per game as Olivia Moore [17.0 and team leading nine rebounds], Lauren Rodgers [11.1] and Evelyn Turner [10.5] join Whitfill in the Bearcats attack.

Point Park won both regular season match ups 91-62 at home Dec. 14 and 78-66 on the road Jan.5.

“They’ve given everyone in the second semester a pretty close game, for at least a half,” Grenek said of Brescia. “It’s going to be a pretty difficult matchup for us, at least we’re at home – that’s one huge advantage. You can’t take anything for granted now, it’s win or go home, it’s that way for both teams. We’ve got to make sure we’re on top of our game.”

Following the completion of Tuesday’s games, there will be four teams remaining in the KIAC Tournament. The teams will head to Pippa Passes, Ky. as Alice Lloyd will host both the semi-finals and finals of the KIAC Tournament.