‘You’ve Got to Find a Way’: Penguins move on in Horizon League tournament

Youngstown State’s Heidi Schlegel (15) goes up for a shot while being defended by Oakland’s Victoria Lipscomb (30) during the first half of Wednesday night’s Horizon League tournament matchup at the Beeghly Center. Photo by Dustin Livesay | The Jambar

Things didn’t start particularly well for the Youngstown State University women’s basketball team in Wednesday’s Horizon League quarterfinal game against Oakland University.

The Penguins (15-15, 11-6 Horizon League) missed their first two shots and had three turnovers in the first three minutes of the game before finding their rhythm and pulling out to a 12-point lead with 1:43 left in the first half.

But luckily, the Golden Grizzlies (13-17, 8-8) started off worse, shooting just 23 percent in the first half before rallying to play back-and-forth for the lead during the last five minutes of the game.

But things ended well for the Penguins when senior guard Melissa Thompson was wide open in the lane with 36 seconds left.

“I didn’t realize how open the lane was so I was looking for a pass. I was just like, ‘Oh! I can just drive it,’ so I went and drove the ball and luckily I made it,” Thompson said.

“I think she was a little shocked. I was happy that she realized the situation and went hard to the basket. [Melissa’s] at her best when she’s attacking and for her to finish in a crowd at the time in the game was great. We needed it,” coach John Barnes said.

Thompson, who scored a career-high 15 points, was fouled on the play and hit the extra shot to give YSU a three-point lead that eventually locked up the Penguins 68-64 victory.

Even after giving up an eight-point second half lead, 17 second chance points and 17 offensive rebounds to Oakland, the team found a way to keep the season going.

“You’ve got to find a way. I don’t know how we did it because we continued to turn the ball over and continued to not box out, but you’ve got to find a way. Melissa found a way to get that three-point play,” senior Liz Hornberger said. “We found a way to get some stops in the second half. We have four seniors who have been through it all, I think some days, when it comes to all the bad things at least. Those things happen and going through all that, I think we found a way to come through tonight…

“It doesn’t matter as long as you win.”

Hornberger finished with 11 points and tied the YSU women’s record for career 3-pointers with 198 in her four years at YSU.

With the victory, YSU will face the second-seeded Wright State University on Friday. Wright State (23-8, 12-4) is the only Horizon League team the Penguins didn’t beat during the regular season. Both games were double-digit losses.

“They’re good and the first time, I don’t think we were quite ready for them… You’ve got to be tough, you’ve got to be extra mentally tough with them, you’ve got to play defense every time. They’re scoring machines,” Hornberger said. “If we go into that thinking, ‘Oh, we have this,’ which I don’t think we will, we’re not going to win. We have to be the tougher team.”

Having just one day off, which will be spent traveling to Green Bay where the remaining Horizon League tournament games will be played, shouldn’t cause any problems in the team’s preparations.

“It’s the third time that you’re playing all these teams, so you kind of know everything that they’re doing, they know everything that you’re doing,” Barnes said.

Even so, there’s a reason that the Raiders are the second seed.

“Wright State is probably the most talented team in the league, they have the player of the year in the league and she’s outstanding averaging 23 or 24 points per game,” Barnes said. “They create all kinds of matchup problems for us, but we’re also very motivated to play our best game on Friday.”