The Slippery Rock University women’s basketball team ended their 2016-2017 season with a final record of 9-19 and 6-16 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). The team concluded their season by losing their final nine match-ups, with their last win being at home on January 21st against Edinboro University.
Head coach Bobby McGraw said a main factor in why his team was unable to be as successful as he had predicted was because of the absence of senior point guard Lexi Carpenter. Carpenter played just over a minute in a January 28th matchup against Seton Hill University when she was removed from the game with a hip flexor injury and did not appear in another game for the rest of the season.
Junior forward Mallory Heinle called Carpenter’s absence an adjustment for the rest of the team, especially when it came at the end of the season when injuries, fatigue and illnesses plagued the rest of the team.
“Being that our offense runs through [Lexi], her absence definitely impacted our team,” Heinle said. “But we have a lot of talented scorers on the team, so we were capable of stepping up, we just needed time to adjust our offense.”
The Green and White tallied a total of 1,869 points (1,445 in conference play) and averaged 66.75 (65.68) points per game. Although missing the final portion of the season, Carpenter led her team with 382 points on the season. She averaged 19.1 points per game in 20 games played while also shooting a .405 field goal percentage. Second in scoring was freshman Brooke Hinderliter. Hinderliter, who McGraw says is the best freshman in the entire PSAC, totaled 294 points (10.5 per game) and collected 133 rebounds, which was fourth best on the team.
“It is a travesty [Brooke] was not the PSAC West Freshman of the Year,” McGraw said. “The voting process for our conference awards need to be revised. If Brooke continues to invest as much of her personal time and continues to work as hard as she did throughout this season to improve her game, I fully expect her to be a challenge for PSAC Player of the Year.”
Coach McGraw praised the addition of junior guard C.C. Dixon. He said that she really stepped up when Carpenter was injured, and gave Slippery Rock some very impressive performances.
Dixon, in her first season with The Rock, tallied 250 points (8.9 per game) and led the team in total minutes played with 750 while also collecting 147 rebounds.
Heinle totaled 217 points (7.8 per game) and also led The Rock in rebounds with 166. McGraw praised Heinle by saying she had some very solid performances and expects her to improve on even higher levels for her senior season.
Defensively, The Rock gave up 2,109 points to their opponents (75.3 per game). Coach McGraw stressed how his team did not perform near his expectations on the defensive end.
“Night in and night out, we did not get it done, plan and simple,” McGraw said. “Two of our best wins coincided with two of our best defensive efforts—Edinboro at home (69-58) and East Stroudsburg on the road (70-66). If you cannot defend night in and night out in the best women’s conference in the country, you are not going to be successful.”
“Defensively, we had trouble putting together a full game,” Heinle explained. “Next year we definitely need to execute our defense better to be able to put together a full game.”
Hinderliter acknowledged that as a team, they definitely let some quarters get away from them. She said that there were games that they should have won if better defense was played.
“With all that being said, we have a really talented team and I believe that next year we are going to do a lot better, offensively and defensively,” Hinderliter said. “We are going to put everything together for next year and win the games we are leading in and not let them get away from us.”
Although the season was not what McGraw had hoped for at the beginning of the season, he remains optimistic. Besides Hinderliter, he praised the freshman talent that he has on his team by saying they had a huge impact on the team without question. He explained that people do not realize the impact freshman LeeAnn Gibson had on the team on a nightly basis. In her rookie season, Gibson had 130 points and went 36 for 84 from the field.
“[LeeAnn] can play in this league, she has the desire and mindset to win at the highest level every night, period.” McGraw said.
McGraw said freshman Carly Lutz suffering a season-ending prevented him from depending on her to give him some quality minutes in a reserve role. Freshman Alexis Deyarmin did what she was told to do every single day and has a very great work ethic and improved her game every day, McGraw explained.
McGraw said that there is not one individual person he expects to step-up for next season. He said that whoever puts in the most work and quality time attempting to improve over the summer, primarily on the defensive end will get the majority of the minutes next season.
“Our best defensive unit will take the floor next year, whether you are a freshman, upperclassman, or a transfer,” he said. “A champion works hard when no one is looking—we will find out at the end of August who plans to step-up and lead us back to the conference tournament.”
In recent weeks, McGraw said he has been out recruiting to help bring talent to the team. He expressed his excitement about who he is planning on bringing to Slippery Rock. He said that his recruiting is headlined by Julia Baxter, a junior college All-American from Butler County Community College.
Baxter is coming off a season where she tallied 582 points (25.3 per game) in 23 games played. McGraw said that Baxter turned down several offers, including one from the University of Akron, to continue to build on the foundation the team is laying. Baxter is going to make an immediate impact on the defensive end and on the glass, McGraw said.
Next season will be McGraw’s fourth as head coach and he will try to finally put together a team that can contend for the long sought after PSAC title.