The Slippery Rock women’s basketball team recorded consecutive wins for the first time this season thanks to a 64-63 triumph over Seton Hill on Saturday afternoon at the Morrow Field House.
In the closing moments of the game, senior forward LeeAnn Gibson drove towards the hoop for a potential game winning layup and was fouled with only 0.5 seconds to go. With all eyes on her and The Rock’s season hanging in the balance, Gibson displayed composure as she knocked down the go-ahead free throw before intentionally missing the second shot, denying Seton Hill any chance of a last second shot attempt.
“How about LeeAnn Gibson, talk about having guts.” Head coach Bobby McGraw said passionately. “She was 3-11 from the field today but good from the free throw line. Not the game, but her career was on the line with that shot.”
A passionate, fiery coach in every single game he coaches, McGraw became emotional as he put Gibson’s game winning bucket into perspective.
“I can’t tell you how many times I was told when she was coming out of high school that she couldn’t play in this league,” McGraw said. “She has been a monster down the stretch for us, I’m incredibly proud of her.”
The win keeps The Rock’s playoff hopes alive, as they are now only one and a half games behind the Griffins, who currently possess the sixth and final seed in the PSAC tournament. The Green and White improve their record to 8-17 overall and 6-13 in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference play. Seton Hill drops to 13-11 overall and 7-11 in the PSAC.
For McGraw, a strong defensive showing was a key ingredient in Saturday’s win over the Griffins.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this team,” McGraw said. “[We] played with incredible energy today, [Seton Hill] is the number one scoring team in the PSAC, we held them to 61 points today.”
For reference, Seton Hill averages 76.3 points per game and essentially shoots at 40% from the field. On top of holding the Griffins to 13 points below their season average, The Rock held Seton Hill to a meager 28.8 field goal percentage and 16.1% from three-point range.
Though it was an overall strong showing from a defensive standpoint for Slippery Rock, it was Seton Hill’s defense who controlled the narrative in the first ten minutes of regulation. After a tightly contested first quarter that saw both teams combine for only 26 points, the Griffins held a 15-11 advantage heading into the second quarter.
For the next ten minutes, it was Slippery Rock who ran the show, outscoring their PSAC rival by the tune of 25-12. The second quarter run was capped off by a jump shot by senior forward Karington Ketterer in the closing seconds of the half. The crowd roared as the Rock women jogged into the locker room, holding a decisive 36-27 lead at half time. A palpable sense of energy coursed through the home bleachers at Morrow Field House, indicating that Slippery Rock held all the momentum after 20 minutes of play.
After an electric finish to a dominant second quarter, The Rock felt their grip on a commanding lead slowly slip away, as Seton Hill made a comeback push in the last 15 minutes of the game.
The Rock held a lead as large as 14 late in the third quarter, but the Griffins erased the lead over a 12:36 span in which they went on a 32-16 run. With only 1:08 remaining in the fourth quarter, Slippery Rock found themselves down 63-61, after holding a lead for a majority of the second half.
No stranger to performing in the clutch moments of a game, senior guard Brooke Hinderliter quickly drove to the paint before hitting a jumper to tie the game at 63-63. A testament to McGraw, the defense was able to force a missed shot followed by drawing an offensive foul on the other end of the floor, giving Slippery Rock the ball back with 29 seconds left.
With the game on the line, McGraw called a 30-second timeout to devise one more play for The Green and White.
“There are three specific options in that play call,” McGraw said. “The thing we wanted to focus on coming out of that timeout is that we were not going to actually start [the play] until there was thirteen seconds left on that clock. With that timing, you saw with that timing, there was going to be one team that got the last shot and it was Slippery Rock.”
Just as McGraw had described, junior guard Daeja Quick held on to the ball for 15 seconds before she passed to Gibson who was just outside the paint. Gibson went on to attack the hoop and was fouled on her shot attempt with 0.5 seconds left in the game.
Gibson knocked down the game-clinching free throw in her first attempt, sealing a Slippery Rock win, while preserving The Rock’s hopes for the final playoff spot.
Hinderliter and senior guard Madison Johnson led the team in scoring with 16 points each, while Gibson recorded a double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.
After Saturday’s emotional home win, McGraw stated his confidence in his team’s ability to compete in every game.
“This team has a different look in their eyes,” McGraw said. “They are starting to believe what I’ve been telling them since August 29th, they can beat any team in the PSAC, including IUP.”
With three games remaining, The Rock will have to beat the remaining three teams on their schedule to continue to have hopes for the playoffs.
Up first will be on the road against Gannon this Saturday, who The Rock narrowly lost to by a score of 69-66 at the Morrow Field House earlier this season. The game will be held at the Hammermill Center in Erie, PA. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.