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Women's Basketball

No. 25 Point Park earns important road victory at Rio Grande, 74-70

Jan. 8, 2014 at 1:00 a.m. ET  By Zachary Weiss, Point Park Athletic Communications

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Kelly Johnson had 19 of her 23 points the second half in the win at Rio Grande. Photo by Derrik Whitten.

BOX SCORE

RIO GRANDE, Ohio — The No. 25-ranked Point Park University women’s basketball team won, 74-70, Wednesday at KIAC opponent Rio Grande (Ohio).

Point Park (13-2, 2-1 KIAC) led by 10 points in the first half and 37-32 at halftime. The Pioneers led by 12 twice in the second half but had to score the final five points of the game to come away with the win over KIAC newcomer Rio Grande (9-6, 0-1 KIAC).

It was a big win for Point Park, which was playing its third KIAC road game in a span of five days, the first two of which were in Kentucky on Saturday and Sunday. It was also the first KIAC North Divisional game for the Pioneers, who were picked as the preseason favorite in the division, just ahead of Rio Grande.

Point Park’s Kelly Johnson had 19 of her 23 points after halftime to lead all scorers. The sophomore from Mt. Lebanon High School filled up the stat sheet with six assists, four steals, five rebounds and a pair of 3-pointers.

Pioneers sophomore forward Carly Forse added 17 points, which included the first 3-point basket of her collegiate career, and junior guard/forward Ja’Nia McPhatter contributed 16 points towards the win.

Rio Grande was led in scoring by forward Alexis Payne with 18 points. Guard Brianna Thomas also scored in double figures netting 15 points along with six assists. Forward Brooke Marcum had a double-double with 14 points and 21 rebounds. Rio Grande dominated the rebounds, 54-33.

“I’m proud of both our men’s and women’s teams tonight,” coach Tony Grenek said, referring to the doubleheader sweep of the Point Park teams at Rio Grande. “They have played three tough conference games all on the road since last (Saturday), not to mention being on a charter bus for roughly 30 hours during that same time frame. We have great kids who ‘gut it up’ and love to win. I’m honored to coach these ladies.”

The score was close for much of the first half, but Point Park led by as many as 10 points, 31-21. But Rio Grande rallied to within a couple of possessions by halftime. A late Pioneers basket from Forse made the score 37-32 in favor of Point Park at the break.

Payne picked up her fourth foul at the beginning of the second half, and while she was on the bench, Point Park extended its lead to 12 points on two occasions – 48-36 and 54-42. The lead was mostly built by a Point Park defense that forced 26 turnovers, which was one away from Rio Grande’s season high.

With the Red Storm down double digits, coach David Smalley had to bring Payne back in. Rio Grande chipped away at the lead, and with 6:05 to play, it eventually took a 62-61 lead.

Rio Grande stretched the lead to 68-64 with 3:35 left, however, the Pioneers rallied with a 5-0 run to take a 69-68 lead with 2:07 to play. It was Johnson’s jumper that tied the score at 68-68, and she made 1 of 2 free throws on the Pioneers’ next possession to put her team up one.

With 1:31 left, Rio Grande’s Sharday Baines knocked down two free throws to give the Red Storm a 70-69 lead. Point Park worked the ball up quickly, and Johnson found Forse for an inside bucket as the Pioneers went back in front, 71-70, with 1:13 to go.

Rio Grande opted to take a 3-pointer on its next possession, and although it came up empty, it got the offensive rebound as well. But the Red Storm missed another field goal, a jumper by Payne.

That gave Point Park possession with 41 seconds left. The Pioneers worked the shot clock down to 15 seconds before Grenek called for a timeout. Out of the timeout, Johnson made a floater in the lane just before the shot clock went off. This gave the Pioneers a 73-70 lead with 15 seconds to play.

Rio Grande attempted a tying 3-pointers from the corner, but Pioneers guard Alexa Xenakis blocked the shot. The Red Storm rebounded the miss, and Payne missed from in close. Forse rebounded that miss and was fouled with 0.4 seconds left. She made the first free throw, and with Rio Grande out of timeouts, missed the second to secure the win.

Point Park scored 10 of the final 14 points of the game and the final five of the contest. Rio Grande did not make a field goal for the final 3:32.

The Pioneers will next play IU Kokomo for a KIAC home game Saturday at noon. Follow the Pioneers on Twitter @PointParkSports.

Saturday's game will be broadcast on the Point Park Sports Network. Watch Live on Team1Sports.com.