District notebook: Point Park reaches national tournament
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Tony Grenek is feeling defensive these days.
And it makes him smile.
OK, so maybe the second-year Point Park women's basketball coach isn't feeling defensive himself, but his team sure has played some great defense these past two seasons, and that's a big reason they are headed to the NAIA Division II tournament in Sioux City, Iowa, for the second year in a row.
The Pioneers earned a spot in the tournament for the second time with a 67-58 win Tuesday night against Asbury (of Wilmore, Ky.) in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship game in New Albany, Ind.
Point Park got a big game from Ja'Nia McPhatter (20 points and 11 rebounds), but Grenek said the big reason the Pioneers advanced is their stifling defense.
"The four-time defending champs Indiana-Southeast hosted the Final Four of the KIAC tournament, and we had to play them on their home floor in the semifinals," Grenek said. "That was obviously a tough assignment for us, but we held them to 14 points in the second half and pulled away in the second half, and that has been the story with us all season.
"Last year, we were ranked No. 2 in the nation in scoring defense [52 points per game] and this year we are ranked No. 10 [55.9 per game], and our philosophy is we want to play in a way that the first team to score 60 wins the game. We are no doubt a defensively oriented team."
The Pioneers defense is impressive, but more so considering how small and quick the team is and the fact it does not use funky zones or full-court pressure to lock teams down, even the much bigger teams.
Instead, they play half-court man-to-man defense and use their top two defenders -- 5-foot-9 Katresa Savisky (Butler) and 5-6 junior Teresa Davis -- against the best players.
"Our tallest player in our normal rotation is 5-foot-11, and so we are a small team," Grenek said. "It is funny, but last year we were a lot of bigger and did a lot more pressing and played more zone, but now we are straight half-court man and we make teams earn every shot.
"It is pretty simple, too, as we have [Savisky and Davis] just ball hawk and face-guard their best two players, and the other three play basic man but also play some help defense."
Although it is exciting for the Pioneers (25-6) to get to the NAIA tournament for the second year in a row, they will be the No. 8 seed and play No. 1 seed Indiana-Wesleyan (30-3) in the first round Thursday.
The Wildcats spent most of the year as the No. 1-ranked team in the NAIA Division II and finished No. 4, but Grenek said his players are better equipped to handle things this year than last year when the Pioneers lost in the first round against Corban.
Lady RedHawks advance
Point Park is not the only district women's team headed to a national tournament -- La Roche beat Penn State Behrend, 63-58, Saturday to win the AMCC championship to earn a spot in the NCAA Division III tournament.
The Lady Redhawks (24-2), despite having only seven players dress for the championship game, became the third AMCC team to win three consecutive league titles. The Lady Redhawks will play DePauw in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
One more tournament team
The Division III men's tournament begins tomorrow, and PAC champion Saint Vincent (23-5) will play Ohio Wesleyan (22-5) in the first round.
This is the first time the Bearcats have earned a berth in the NCAA Division III tournament, but they have played in many NAIA tournaments.
The Bearcats have won 12 games in a row, including an 81-67 win Saturday against Thomas More in the PAC championship.
First Published March 1, 2013 12:09 am