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Monday November 30 2015
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Dancing in Sioux City

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The Point Park Lady Pioneer basketball team has been improving for years, but their record-setting season—during which they reached the NAIA National Tournament in Sioux City, Iowa—wasn’t just due to a stroke of luck.

Even after the resignation of successful head coach Sam Kosanovich, expectations for the program remained high. Kasanovich led Point Park to its most consistent success in several decades in the last five years.

The Pioneers entered this fall coming off consecutive winning seasons for the first time in 25 years, going 14-13 in each, and were a few games shy of making the American Mideast Conference postseason tournament both of those years. They also had four veteran starters returning to the lineup, including All-Conference honorees April Austin and Joncelyn Peterkin.

Current head coach Anthony Grenek found himself in an ideal situation to begin his first season with the Lady Pioneers.

"A lot of credit goes to the previous coach, who laid the foundation the last five years," Grenek says. "I walked in on a team with veteran seniors in the starting lineup. Mixing that with a couple of players I brought in, it’s been a great fit, and it all came together for us. For these ladies to get a new coach, make the adjustment, and buy in to what we were doing was great. It was fun to watch them grow as a team as the season went on."

Grenek’s ten years of coaching experience at the college level—including two years as Seton Hill’s associate head coach—prepared him to take the helm at Point Park. At Seton Hill, he was instrumental in the Griffins’ Division II national tournament run in 2009-10, in only their second season of NCAA eligibility. His experience in running practices, on-floor coaching, recruiting, and creating scouting reports made his transition to head coaching at Point Park seamless.

“[This season] was a great experience, and [Grenek] is a wonderful coach,” said junior Brittany Dunmire. “I learned a lot from him both on the basketball court and in life. He’s a really great influence and a positive role model.”

Dunmire played her first two seasons under Kosanovich and had to become accustomed to Grenek’s style of play, along with the rest of the team’s upperclassmen.

The team’s chemistry off the court was also a major contributor to their success this season. Freshman Maria Romano believes it was why they reached the national tournament.

“I love this team,” Romano said. “We had so much chemistry, and that’s what made us successful. We loved playing with each other, and we loved coming to practice.”

Point Park won the AMC championship with a 60-48 victory over Daemen College in late January. The Lady Pioneers held a 12-2 conference record on the season, won a record 27 of 30 games, and made the school's first appearance in the NAIA Division II tournament, which began March 7 in Sioux City, Iowa. Despite a 60-58 loss to tenth-ranked Corban in the first round, Point Park finished their season ranked 21st nationally. The national tournament was an extremely valuable experience for all of the players.

“When we won the AMC championship, that really took our team to another level, and it made us realize that we had a shot in the national tournament,” Dunmire said. “The AMC title was something that we had never done before, and [it] really felt like a huge accomplishment.”

The closest Point Park women’s team had previously advanced to the national tournament was in 1993-94, when it reached the final of the Keystone-Empire Collegiate Conference Tournament.

As another testament to the progress of the women’s basketball program, Point Park won two of three of the AMC’s individual awards in the 2011-12 season. Grenek was awarded Coach of the Year, and junior guard Emily Schartner of Finleyville, PA, was named Newcomer of the Year. Schartner placed third on the team with 8.6 points per game, and shot .756 from the free throw line.

Two of Point Park’s standout players were also selected for the All-AMC First Team: junior guard April Austin of Penn Hills, who led the team with 10.6 points per game and 3.3 rebounds per game, and senior center Joncelyn Peterkin of West Mifflin, who was second on the team with 9.6 ppg, but led with 7.2 rpg. Neither player is a stranger to conference honors; Austin placed on the All-AMC second team in the previous two years, and Peterkin was an honorable mention pick in 2010-11.

While losing in the first round is not the way they would’ve chosen to end the season, it is nevertheless a learning experience for each of these young women.

“It’s something that all of us are going to remember for the rest of our lives,” Schartner said. “Getting to cut down the net, not everyone gets to do that. For me, this was probably the most fun basketball season of my life, and I know that most of the girls feel the same way.”

Grenek also viewed his first campaign at Point Park as a success. Prior to the start of the season, he set 10 goals for the team to achieve.

“Most of the time, a coach is lucky if he accomplishes one or two goals, and we were fortunate to accomplish eight of our 10,” Grenek said. “We were 0.1 seconds away from nine, which was to win a game in the tournament. I am very proud of what we accomplished. Now I want to make the national tournament every year, and that’s going to be our goal.”Ash

Neil Walker’s contract expires after the 2016 season. The Pirates second baseman is due for a big raise in arbitration this offseason—likely to $10 million—and signing him to a long-term extension will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $12-$15 million annually.
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