Every successful sports team and franchise shares one goal they always strive to achieve. They never stop working in an effort to never stop improving. The Slippery Rock Women’s basketball team has embodied that principle to its fullest extent up to this point in the year.
Last season’s 2021-22 squad opened up to a bright-looking start, having gone 6-3 to start their season. Unfortunately, The Rock hit a rough patch that included a handful of well-fought in-conference losses from which the team was not fully able to recover.
This year the team has started off even hotter and looks to ride the wave of their current five-game win streak into an overall winning record and hopefully a PSAC tournament berth after falling one spot short of the tournament last year.
Head Coach Chenara Wilson shared why she believes the team has had early success and commended her players for their adaptability and durability when asked about the biggest bright spots so far.
“Being in shape, being able to adjust to the changes that have been incorporated,” Coach Wilson said.
Those changes have been very important as well. The team lost multiple playmakers from last season. One of whom was Jamiyah Johnson. Johnson was a graduate student who has since joined the coaching ranks as a graduate assistant.
Nonetheless, it is hard to rework a successful offense when losing a player such as Johnson, the team’s leading point scorer from the 2021-22 season. Thankfully, Coach Wilson and her players have responded in a big way. During their winning streak, The Rock has topped 76 points on three occasions, a feat that was accomplished four times last year. This includes an 86-point outburst on Sunday, Nov 27th against Fairmont State University.
“We changed the offense to where we could use people to their strengths,” Coach Wilson said.
The revised offense has undoubtedly required strong play from everyone involved but has seen big contributions from Redshirt Sophomore guard Isabellah Middleton, Redshirt Senior Guard Deleah Gibson, and Redshirt Senior forward Kennedy Middleton. All three players have already eclipsed the 80-point mark with Gibson and Isabella Middleton having achieved over 100 points.
Isabellah Middleton is the squad’s leading 3-point scorer, with 12. Gibson is second in points for The Rock while also leading in free throw percentage with .833 assuming at least four free throws attempted. Kennedy Middleton leads SRU in assists.
Deleah Gibson has also shown her presence defensively. She holds the lead in both steals (11) and blocks (4).
The Rock is roughly a quarter of the way through their schedule and has two games this upcoming weekend. The first of which is against Shephard University. Shephard has been somewhat down on their luck, starting the season with five straight losses. SRU looks to ride its hot streak and capitalize on a team suffering the opposite.
The second game of the two is against Shippensburg University. Shippensburg is off to a 4-1 start including back-to-back wins leading up to playing the California University of PA just before Slippery Rock. Coming out of this two-game stretch with two more wins would only add to the already increasing confidence of The Rock women’s basketball heading into a two week break in between any games.
It is no secret that Slippery Rock women’s basketball has had to deal with adversity that spans far beyond the game since last year. The passing of beloved former Head Coach Bobby McGraw has impacted everyone and will continue to do so. He was a radiant personality who was gifted as a head coach and mentor. Coach Wilson shared how she and her players have banded together to use each other to get through these troubling times.
“We had to start off tight,” Coach Wilson said.
There was no time to work out team chemistry issues and other such problems, the team had to be there for each other on and off the court. And they have been. Growing close has its benefits at every level of any type of athletics, but it because all the more important when dealing with hardships.
“We had to just pull together and be there for each other,” Coach Wilson said.
It is not possible to replace someone like Coach McGraw who just seemed to connect and resonate positively with everyone he met. One thing that The Rock can continue to do is play the game that they love, the game that he loved.
This season will always have a deeper meaning and in many ways be dedicated to Coach McGraw. The winning and successes that have already been had can only make the dedication more sweet.