Lady Griffins’ win streak hits 10 on senior night

Led by a determined senior class, the women’s basketball team closed out the regular season home schedule with their tenth straight victory, a 71-50 drudging over visiting Pitt-Johnstown (UPJ), on Feb. 20 at the McKenna Center.

By Sean Maiolo

Business/Ad Manager

Led by a determined senior class, the women’s basketball team closed out the regular season home schedule with their tenth straight victory, a 71-50 drudging over visiting Pitt-Johnstown (UPJ), on Feb. 20 at the McKenna Center.

The senior class did not disappoint in their final night to shine in front of a packed home crowd, combining for 39 points, 20 rebounds and 11 assists. Guard/forward Erika Haitz led the seniors with 13 points and nine boards, and despite sitting most of the first half with foul trouble, forward Kate Lintner chipped in 12 points and seven rebounds. Senior guard, Orit Farchi finished with nine points and nine helpers.

Junior guard/forward Jordan Burkes led all scorers with 22 points, half of those from the charity stripe.

On top of being senior night, fans also packed Salvitti Gymnasium in hopes of witnessing head coach Ferne Labati’s 500th win, a program record 15th conference win and to have their lucky ticket drawn for a half court shot at $25,000.

Unbeknownst to the team, assistant coach Tony Grenek also guaranteed victory one day earlier. No sweat, right?

“I was very confident going in,” Grenek insisted following the win. “I just know sometimes the emotions of senior day take over and you might not play as well as you hope to play. I’ve been on teams where we lost our senior day just because it’s been so emotional.

“There was so much going on with coach’s 500th win possibly, senior day and the $25,000 shot, it was a huge game for the conference standings, 10th win in a row, too, so I’m glad I made that guarantee but I’m just glad that we backed it up as well,” continued Grenek.

The Lady Griffins had to overcome some early struggles against UPJ. Only five minutes into the game, Lintner picked up her second foul and was forced to sit for the remainder of the first half.

“I knew that I couldn’t foul anymore or I would’ve gotten pulled,” said Lintner of her second half adjustments. “I knew I had to buckle down on defense, so I just went to playing my own game.”

With SHU’s leading scorer on the bench, UPJ managed to knot the score at 19 and forced coach Labati to expend a timeout with just over nine minutes left in the half to refocus her squad. Hitting that reset button turned out to be just what the team needed.
The Lady Griffins generated a 10-0 run late in the period and went into the locker room with a 36-26 lead. SHU then came out with timely scoring and stifling defense in the second half to seal the win.

“We locked down on defense and really converted on our transition game,” said senior guard Jenna Petrini. “Once we figured out where our [defensive] gaps were, we were able to stop them.”

SHU also benefited from a more aggressive approach on offense that resulted in them going to the free throw line 21 times compared to only six trips for UPJ.

“We always try to keep the opposing team off the foul line no matter who we play and the last few games we’ve been doing that pretty well,” said Grenek. “We as a team are starting to attack the basket a little better. At the beginning of the year we were basically just an outside shooting team and we weren’t getting a lot of opportunities from the foul line.

“Now the girls are starting to come around and they’re being more committed on taking the ball to the basket.”

The outgoing seniors have been a very tightly woven group for the last four seasons despite all the turbulence the program has endured.

“We started that program on probation the first two years, we dug out of that hole and worked really hard for four years,” said Farchi.

“We all know each other’s instincts and what they’re going to do,” noted Haitz of the seniors’ camaraderie. “That’s just what you get from playing together for so long.”

“They just make me so proud to call them teammates and be able to graduate with them,” added senior guard Laura McCarthy.

The contributions from the senior class perhaps most impressed their head coach, who had nothing but glowing praise for their tenacity over their careers.

“The seniors have been wonderful. For the first two years they couldn’t compete for anything,” she said. “The second year they were able to compete for academic awards and then [for postseason play] their third year.

“One of the greatest things of all as a coach is to have a 100 percent graduation rate which we did. We have all five seniors graduating and graduating on time so that’s big for me.”

Labati continued, “It’ll be a sad day when the season ends because these seniors are just tremendous people not only for what they provide on the basketball court but also the way they live their lives off the basketball court,” Grenek said in conclusion. “I think Seton Hill should be very proud and honored that these student-athletes represent their school because they’re nothing but class acts.

“Regardless of what happens on the basketball court, these young ladies are going to be very successful in the real world once they graduate.”