Coming off a 12-15 (10-12 in conference) regular season, the Slippery Rock University women’s basketball team have clinched a birth in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) tournament. The sixth ranked Rock will travel to California (Pa.) University on Monday to take on the third ranked Vulcans, who finished the season 23-5 (18-4).
During the regular season, The Rock took on the nationally ranked Vulcans twice, losing 71-62 and 61-41, respectively. McGraw said he expects his team to come out ready to compete.
“It sounds simple, but we have to make shots,” McGraw said. “What I mean by that is that we have to make shots that we absolutely cannot miss. California is so tough defensively that we cannot afford to miss easy shots.”
McGraw said he plans to go with a starting lineup that consists of senior Sierra Fordham, juniors Madison Johnson and Morgan Henderson, and sophomores LeeAnn Gibson and Brooke Hinderliter. McGraw said that with Hinderliter averaging 13.9 points per game, he is going to need at least 14 from her in order to win Monday.
“Brooke has worked hard all year and her performance is definitely going to factor in the outcome of Monday’s game,” McGraw said.
Hinderliter finishes the regular season with 376 points, 178 rebounds (6.6 per game), and forced 64 turnovers in 811 minutes played.
Johnson, a transfer from Saint Francis (Pa.) University, is also expected to continue her strong season into the playoffs, Johnson finished the season as The Rock’s second highest scorer behind Hinderliter. In her first season as a member of the Green and White, she compiled 247 points (9.1 per game), 98 rebounds, and went 66 for 86 (77 percent) from the free-throw line.
“Johnson has made a huge impact on our time this year,” McGraw said. “What people don’t realize is that, when we play teams, Madison Johnson gets assigned to guard the best scorer from the guard position. When we lost to Edinboro, Madison held Jontay Walton, the best scorer in the guard position in the entire PSAC, to just 10 points and also forced five turnovers, so even if she didn’t score a lot during a game, she’s always there and is always on the glass.”
Senior Krista Pietropola comes off a season where she put up 133 points (4.9 per game) and shot 25% from the three-point line. McGraw called Pietropola a “sleeper” for his team because she always has the potential to “unload” a large amount of points from the three-point line.
“I wouldn’t be surpsided if Krista made five three-pointers Monday night,” McGraw explained.
McGraw said that his team’s chemistry, a topic he always brings up, is something that he did not see in his first three years as head coach. The team chemistry has allowed the women to overcome numerous amounts of adversity throughout the season, he said. McGraw said he has complete faith in his team to be able to take down and upset the Vulcans on their home court.
The Rock has not won a PSAC tournament matchup since 1996 and has not won a conference championship since 1986, according to Rock Athletics. Tipoff for Monday’s game is set for 7 p.m. at the Convocation Center in California, Pennsylvania