For the Slippery Rock University women’s basketball team, the playoffs start Saturday at 1 p.m.
After taming the Tigers of Salem University (8-19), 98-90, on Wednesday evening, the Green and White (11-16, 8-12 in PSAC) will welcome division-rival Gannon into Morrow Field House on Saturday and, with a win, would claim the final seed in the league tournament.
The Rock flexed its muscles in the break from conference play. Salem touched the scoreboard first, but that 2-0 lead would be its only advantage of the night. After a decisive first period, the visitors trailed by 23 points.
Bench players entered earlier than usual as head coach Bobby McGraw planned ahead for his normal rotation not to log heavy minutes in order to stay fresh for Saturday. With the reserves in, the Tigers tried chipping away at the Rock’s lead, but, with some defensive help late from Ciara Patterson and Morgan Henderson, the victory was preserved. The team was extremely distributive, attacking the rim and dishing out a season-high 21 assists. In addition, the team shot 47.3 percent (35-for-74) overall.
“Today, we did the best job in my five years here of finding the best available shot,” said the fifth-year head coach. “We had people passing up wide-open layups because their teammate was even more open. That was tremendous to see today, especially heading into Saturday, which is the Super Bowl for us.”
Each player that saw time on the hardwood netted at least four points. In what has become an all-too-familiar theme this season, both guards Brooke Hinderliter and Patterson had impressive showings. Hinderliter posted 15 points and three assists in 21 minutes on the floor. In scoring 21 points in close to three quarters, Patterson exceeded 1,000 career collegiate points and moved into third place in school single-season history with her 68 made three-pointers.
Henderson dropped 14 points, collected five rebounds, and had two steals. However, her stat line took a backseat to a much more notable accomplishment. The game marked the 111th that the senior forward from Eighty Four, Pennsylvania had played in for the school— a program record. She will round out her career in a green and white uniform ranked in the program’s top five for both offensive and defensive rebounds and in the top ten for blocked shots and total rebounds.
“I was pretty shocked. I didn’t even know I was close to it,” Henderson said, “But it’s a huge accomplishment and I’m glad I was able to play here for four years.”
“Morgan Henderson has meant the world to us,” McGraw said. “And she’s gotten better every single year, every single game, every single week. I couldn’t be more proud of her. I did let her know right near tip-off, Brooke’s going to break it next year, so enjoy it for the year.” Freshman guard Olivia Fusaro (10 points) rounded out the Rock double-digit scorers. As a whole, the team scored its highest point total since November of 2014. “That locker room’s abuzz,” McGraw said of the upbeat atmosphere after the game. “They wish [Gannon] was tomorrow.”
“I could not have scripted it better going into Saturday.”
Tip-off for Saturday’s game is set for 1 p.m.