YOUNGSTOWN - Brandi Brown has been the ying to the Youngstown State women's basketball yang for her career.
Even during the abyss of the program's 0-30 season her freshman year, Brown became one of the few shining stars of the Penguins' program.
"I always think things get better," Brown said. "I knew things wouldn't be easy. Things are never easy when it's worth it. My mentality was to stay strong and encourage those around me. I think that's what a leader does. A leader is there to serve those who are around her. Whatever they need, I'm supposed to be giving that to them.
"I hope that in my time here I've been a true servant leader and serve my teammates in the way I know that it takes to build and rebuild a program."
Monday, she became immortalized in YSU history as the Pomona, Calif., native and YSU senior became only the second player to eclipse the 2,000-point and 1,000-rebound mark in her career during a 72-50 victory over Valparaiso at the Beeghly Center. Her father, Wayne, even made the trip for Monday's game.
Brown got her 2,001 point on a lay-up with 16 minutes remaining. It was around the basket, somewhere Brown has made her mark.
Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo
Youngstown State University seniors Devan Matkin and Brandi Brown were honored during Monday’s senior night at the Beeghly Center. Brown surpassed the 2,000-point mark in her career during Monday’s win over Valparaiso. Pictured from left, YSU team manager Macey Nortey, Matkin, YSU coach Bob Boldon, Brown and Wayne Brown.
"I think it's nice of them to say I'm one of the best," said Brown, who had 18 points and six rebounds. "I always knew I could push through and always make it, but never what's going on now and where we are in the conference.
"I'm just really happy that we're here."
The Penguins called timeout soon after the shot to commemorate the moment and let her team and the crowd congratulate Brown.
"It was just a regular lay-up that now has 2,000 on it," Brown said. "It's pretty cool. It wasn't my goal to get 2,000 points or anything like that.
"It's pretty neat to add to the list."
Only Dorothy Bowers (1984-88) surpassed that during her playing time in Youngstown - 2,324 points and 1,083 rebounds. And, former Milwaukee player Traci Edwards reached that milestone as well with 2,340 points and 1,193 rebounds.
Brown has 2,009 points and 1,199 rebounds.
Did we mention the 5-foot-11 senior phenom was named espnW National Player of the Week and Horizon League Player of the Week for averaging 40.5 points in wins against UIC and Wright State?
"I think the national recognition is pretty awesome," Brown said.
YSU coach Bob Boldon recognizes the strides she has made ever since he took over the program prior to Brown's sophomore season.
"She's developed as a leader," Boldon said. "I have seen significant strides in the last eight to 10 months where she's stepped up as a leader. When she came to college, she was only 17 years old and talented, but wasn't sure what to do with all that talent. Just watching her mature and grow over the last 10 months has been really exciting and fulfilling.
"Even the last eight months, her maturity and leadership has really shown."
More importantly, the Penguins are so close to solidifying a No. 2 seed for next week's Horizon League Tournament, which YSU will host March 13. The quarterfinal matchup is the first time the women have hosted a tournament game. To clinch the No. 2 seed, Loyola (14-13, 9-5) must lose at top-seeded and No. 20-ranked Green Bay (24-2, 14-0) Thursday.
YSU can take all doubt away by winning Thursday at Detroit.
"It's exciting," Boldon said. "We'll do our best to win on Thursday and secure that. It'll put you in a good situation to get into the NIT and things of that sort and play beyond your conference tournament."
So far, YSU has done it without forward/guard Karen Flagg and forward Heidi Schlegel - both injured.
"Neither of them will practice (today)," Boldon said. "They're both are progressing better from day to day. Probably doubtful for Thursday. It's hard to say with both of them. They keep getting better from day to day.
"They give us a great chance of winning, but we're not going to (risk) any kids' health to win a basketball game. It's just silly."
The Penguins got some much needed help from Monica Touvelle (20 points) and Shar'Rae Davis (18 points).
The way Valparaiso played helped in getting other people involved.
"We knew we were going to see a lot of zone," Boldon said. "I don't know how poorly it was at their place, but we missed a ton of shots. That's something Monica took to heart and she takes a lot of pride in her ability to shoot the ball. Both her and I were very confident that wouldn't happen again.
"It was nice to see Shar'Rae play well. It was nice to see us win a different way we did on Saturday."
It takes pressure off of Brown.
"When my teammates have those open shots, I trust and believe in them and knock them down," Brown said. "That's what they did tonight.
"It shows we're a threat from a lot of different areas - not just in the post, not just on the 3-point line. We can score anywhere and that's what makes us a good team because we're pretty versatile."
But there's no substitute for Brown's prolific driving ability, her sweet touch from 3-point range and uncanny way of posting up on defenders. During Monday's second half, she even wrestled the ball away from four Crusaders for an offensive rebound.
Boldon would want it no other way for his senior leader who is not boastful about her accomplishments. Brown's concentration is solely on her teammates, he added.
"She's so humble about things it was almost a waste of time for her," Boldon said about Monday's ceremonies. "She would've been just as happy as I would've given it to her in the locker room after the game or practice tomorrow.
"We have a stack of her awards in my office to give her at some point. She doesn't care about that stuff. She just cares about her team, winning and things of that sort."
ONE LAST TIME: Senior Devan Matkin, a guard from Twin Falls, Idaho, has been battling injuries all season. During the last minute of Monday's game, she got a chance to play - even taking the last shot of the game that went awry.
"It's was nice to see her on the floor," Boldon said. "Devan has been battling injuries the whole year and has handled it very, very well.
"She played very well for us in Canada (in the preseason). It looked like she was going to be a major contributor. Then, she started to get some pain in her lower leg. It never subsided enough. We tried everything but seeing a witch doctor to try to get her on the floor. It was bizarre. It never got to the point that she could be competitive, like she wants to be competitive to get on the floor."
Boldon is sad to see his senior guard end her career this way.
"It was nice to get her in, but it was also bittersweet to see her move - not like she can move like she can move for us as early as last summer," he said.
TONIGHT'S GAME: The sixth-seeded YSU men host the seventh-seeded Loyola Ramblers tonight at the Beeghly Center. Tip-off is at 7:05 p.m.
The Penguins are 2-0 in first-round Horizon League playoff games.