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Basketball News

Pioneers take five-game winning streak to Northwood (Fla.) Classic

Dec. 22, 2009 

PITTSBURGH -- The Point Park University women's basketball team will carry at five-game winning streak into next week's Northwood (Fla.) Classic. 

The Pioneers (7-2 overall, 3-0 AMC) extended their season-long winning streak to five games Saturday, and they will face two ranked teams at the classic, which is scheduled for Dec. 29-30 in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Team Photo (2)

Point Park will open play Dec. 29 at 2 p.m. versus Indiana Wesleyan (11-3), the No. 8 team in NAIA Division II. The following day, the Pioneers face American Mideast Conference rival Cedarville (9-3), the No. 11 team in the nation, at 12 p.m.

Northwood, the host team, visited Point Park last year and came away with a 51-43 victory Nov. 22. The Seahawks (6-4) started their basketball program three years ago and are members of The Sun Conference.

Indiana Wesleyan is just three years removed from winning the NAIA Division II championship in 2006-07. The Wildcats were 38-0 that year, and they have been to the national tournament the last three seasons.

Indiana Wesleyan won its first 10 games this season to vault up to No. 4 in the country Dec. 7. But the Wildcats have lost three of their last four games and are currently ranked eighth.

Those three losses, however, came to highly ranked teams including Davenport (Mich.), which jumped up to No. 1 after the win, and 16th-ranked Aquinas (Mich.). The other loss was to Campbellsville (Ky.), the No. 10 team in NAIA Division I.

A member of the Mid-Central College Conference, Indiana Wesleyan was rated No. 14 in the national preseason poll. The Wildcats return four starters from last year's team, which went 24-10 and advanced to the NAIA Division II Sweet 16. Indiana Wesleyan is led by junior forward Elaine Hassell, an honorable-mention All-American last year.

Cedarville, which is perennially one of the top teams in the American Mideast Conference, has been to the NAIA Division II tournament six of the last seven seasons. During that span, the Yellow Jackets have advanced to three Final Fours and won the AMC championship five times.

Cedarville is off to a 2-1 start in the AMC with the only setback being an overtime loss to Walsh. The Yellow Jackets were rated No. 11 in the preseason and climbed as high as tenth in the first regular-season poll.

Cedarville is 7-0 all-time versus Point Park, including two victories last season. The Yellow Jackets have averaged 27 wins per season under ninth-year coach Kirk Martin.

Point Park opened last season at the Cedarville Classic and lost to the host team, 85-71, on the second day. Point Park could not overcome a 15-point halftime deficit despite a career-high 28 points from Ashley Henderson (Greensburg/Greensburg Central Catholic) and 21 points and 10 rebounds from Terrica Jones (West Mifflin/West Mifflin). Alison Lemon led Cedarville with 27 points.

In the second meeting last season, Cedarville led 38-30 at halftime, and Point Park could not cut into the lead and wound up losing, 68-60. Henderson had 19 points for the Pioneers, and Aubrey Siemon had 20 points and 17 rebounds for Cedarville.

Point Park is 7-2 for just the second time in school history, and is 3-0 in the AMC for the first time ever. The Pioneers returned four starters from last year's team, which was 11-14 overall and 4-9 in the AMC.

The only new starter is April Austin (Penn Hills/North Catholic), a freshman point guard who is averaging 17.2 points and 3.8 assists per game. Austin is shooting 42 percent overall and 47 percent from 3-point range.  Austin is a former Division I recruit who started her career at Dayton before sitting out the last two years.

Henderson, a junior guard who was named the AMC Newcomer of the Year after transferring from Pitt and Canisius last year, averages 10.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. She is shooting 43 percent from the field and 42 percent from long range.

Besides Austin and Henderson, the only other Point Park player who has started as many as seven games is Brittney Wilson (West Mifflin/West Mifflin), a four-year starter who eclipsed 1,000 career points early this season. Wilson, a senior guard/forward, is averaging 9.6 points and 4.6 rebounds. She is averaging just under 12.0 points per game for her career and has over 500 career rebounds

Point Park's fourth-year coach Sam Kosanovich uses a dozen or more players in each game, and Point Park has nine players who are averaging at least 4.0 points and 12.0 minutes per game.

The Northwood men's basketball team is coached by Rollie Massimino, who led Villanova to the NCAA Division I title in an upset of heavily favored Georgetown in 1985. Massimino became the Seahawks coach in 2006-07, when the men's basketball program was started. Northwood is ranked No. 4 in the NAIA Division II men's basketball rankings.

For complete coverage of the Northwood Classic, visit the Point Park athletic website.