Despite the program winning its most games since the 2005-2006 season, The Rock women’s basketball team (13-15 overall, 9-13 PSAC) was eliminated from playoff contention Wednesday evening at the University of Pitt-Johnstown (8-20 overall, 5-17 PSAC), falling at the hands of the Mountain Cats 84-72.
Junior guard Lexi Carpenter finished her inaugural season at The Rock with a 32-point outing, shooting 11-22 from the field and a perfect 9-9 from the free-throw line.
On the year, Carpenter averaged 17.5 points per game and her 473 total points scored on the season is the 10th highest single-season scoring total in program history.
Sophomore guard Ciara Patterson added 13 points for SRU, while sophomore forward Mallory Heinle contributed nine points. Freshman Morgan Henderson scored seven points off the Slippery Rock bench, along with seven rebounds and two blocks.
With the loss, SRU is forced to bid an early farewell to five seniors: Erica Aiello, Megan Hardiman, Sorriyah Ranger, Sarah Beckham and Rebecca Olkosky.
“If it wasn’t for those seniors, I probably wouldn’t have a job right now,” Rock head coach Bobby McGraw said. “If it weren’t for their contributions last year in that run down the stretch and getting a trip to the conference tournament, I wouldn’t have a job”
McGraw coached the team under an interim status last season after former head coach Tonya Longo left the program after the 2014 campaign.
Because of the team’s success in 2015 under McGraw, the athletic program decided to keep him as the program’s full-time head coach.
Aiello finished her career by scoring six points, gathering six rebounds and dishing out two assists at UPJ.
She walks away having played a total of 2,883 minutes, fourth all-time in team history. Her assists total, 364, also ranks fifth in team history.
The biggest difference of the game was UPJ’s 48.1 field goal percentage compared to Slippery Rock’s 36.5 percent. The Mountain Cats also shot a high percentage in three-point shooting, 42.9 percent, while SRU could not keep up with its own 33.3 percent.
However, Slippery Rock made five three-points on the night, pushing its season total to 184, a school single-season record.
Although McGraw’s team did not make the postseason like it did last year, he feels his team’s win total and overall improvement is something he can definitely tip his hat on.
“When a basketball junkie dissects our season, one thing that will stand out to them is that our team did not play any Division III teams this year,” McGraw said. “We were also able to beat some top-ranked teams in the entire region in West Chester, Chowan and Gannon twice.
There were some tremendous wins and some big strides that our program made.
These aren’t just some positives that we can take away from this season, they’re tremendous positives.”
The Rock enters the offseason with some minor holes that must be addressed with incoming freshman or transfer talent, and McGraw said he has already signed some players who will be able to fill the void with ease.
“We signed three high school kids in the early signing period who had great high school careers,” McGraw said. “Two of those three may see some significant time next year. Right now, we are looking at bringing in a seasoned post player, whether its through transfer from another four-year school or junior college. That’s our main focus right now. We need another post player who can compliment Morgan Henderson down low and grab our team some rebounds.”