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Women's Basketball

Point Park women dig deep for second win in as many days at Midway (Ky.)

Jan.24, 2015 at 10:30 p.m. ET

Kelly Johnson scored another 23 points in the victory at Midway (Ky.). Photo by Derrik Whiten.

By Zachary Weiss

MIDWAY, Ky. — The Point Park University women’s basketball team overcame a 15-point deficit on the road to win its eighth consecutive game, 77-69, Saturday in a KIAC game at Midway (Ky.) College.

Point Park (19-2, 6-1 KIAC) trailed Midway (8-10, 4-2 KIAC), 16-3, at the 11:20 mark of the first half and later trailed by as many as 26-11. But the Pioneers dug deep to reverse the 15-point deficit into an eight-point win by outscoring the Eagles by 23 points the rest of the way.

It was the second KIAC road victory in less than 24 hours for the Pioneers, who won at Brescia (Ky.), 94-78, on Friday night. Saturday’s win was the sixth straight conference victory for Point Park, which is in first place in the KIAC North Division and in the ‘others receiving votes’ section of the NAIA Division II Top 25 Poll at No. 26 overall.

Sophomore point guard Kelly Johnson once again led Point Park with 23 points, and she added six steals.

Sophomore guard Celina DiPietro scored a season-high 15 points on 6 of 8 shooting from the field and 3 of 4 from long range. DiPietro did her work in 19 minutes off the bench, and 10 of her points came after halftime to spark Point Park’s comeback from a 37-33, halftime deficit.

Point Park once again had contributions from many players. Junior forward Ja’Nia McPhatter scored eight points, grabbed eight rebounds and recorded seven steals. Sophomore forward Carly Forse totaled six points, eight rebounds and four steals. The Pioneers forced 26 turnovers and grabbed 20 steals.

“It was a tremendous win, I am so proud of my team,” coach Tony Grenek said. “They fought so hard and could have given up. They came out flat, we were missing shots and were sluggish on defense and it’s to be expected."

Midway had four players score in double figured and the Eagles outrebounded the Pioneers by 20. The Eagles were led by guard Stephanie Lewis, who scored 14 points.

Other double-figure scorers for Midway were Me’Lisa Martinez (12 points and 11 rebounds, eight of which came in the first half), guard Jasmine Johnson (11 points) and McKinzie Laswell, who had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

A talented Midway team that had already beaten No. 21 Asbury (Ky.) handily earlier this year, had the Pioneers on the ropes early. But Point Park outscored the Eagles, 22-11, the rest of the first half to trail by four at the break. Point Park shot 32.4 percent from the field in the first half, whereas Midway shot 51.4 percent.

“Cutting the deficit from 15 points to four before halftime just shows our team’s character,” Grenek said.

Point Park came out motivated to start the second half and cut its turnover total from 11 in the first half to six the rest of the way.

DiPietro was a major player in allowing the Pioneers to take the lead. DiPietro made two 3-point baskets and later found Natasha Moss on a shot fake for an easy lay-up.

“A lot of people don’t realize that Celina was out at the beginning of the year with a concussion, and she also had a couple of medical issues,” said Grenek. “Her best ball is yet to come. She’s a great basketball player, and what’s nice is she’s just hitting her peak now, and it’s almost playoff time. That’s to be expected of her and I’m proud of her.”

Another big play occurred with 4:30 remaining in the second half. Down 67-62, Midway attempted to speed up the pace of the game,  but McPhatter had a big block to fire up the Point Park team.

Point Park stretched its lead to 72-62 with 1:32 to play and held on to get its 11th road victory of the season.

Saturday’s win completed a 3-0 week for the Pioneers, which includes a home win against Cincinnati Christian and road wins at Brescia and Midway. That strong showing could allow them to improve their status from just outside the NAIA DII Top 25 poll as the first team in the “others receiving votes” section. That’s in addition to No. 22 Madonna, No. 23 Mayville State, No. 24 Briar Cliff and No. 25 Webber International all losing this week. The next Top 25 Poll will be released on Tuesday.

Point Park will next face IU Southeast Friday at 5:30 pm for a KIAC home game. The two teams are currently in first place the KIAC North and South Divisions, meaning the contest may prove crucial come tournament time when it comes to seeding.

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