YOUNGSTOWN - Brandi Brown didn't show any signs from her rolled ankle suffered last week at Detroit.
Karen Flagg played for the first time in a couple of weeks, sporting a cast on her right hand, but quite functional, nonetheless.
She had eight points in Thursday's 69-62 victory over seventh-seeded Cleveland State (13-17) in a Horizon League quarterfinal at the Beeghly Center.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
YSU’s Liz Hornberger looks for an opening to the basket as CSU’s Cor Coleman (15) defends during the first half of their game on Wednesday night.
However, like she has done so many times this season, Brown delivered a game-high 31 points and added 13 rebounds to pace the second-seeded Penguins (22-8) to Friday's semifinal against third-seeded Loyola (16-14) at Green Bay.
"It's feels really good, especially for the senior, Brandi Brown. She played a heckuva game," said YSU freshman point guard Shar'Rae Davis, who scored 18 points.
YSU thrived on the 1,648 in attendance - one of the biggest crowds this season. The victory was the first postseason win for the Penguins since the 2008 season.
"I felt we had amazing fans tonight the bench was in it," Davis said. "We fed off it pretty well. When we play with energy, it's hard to stop us."
That energy subsided the last 3 minutes of the game. YSU held a 62-48 lead, but Cleveland State outscored the Penguins 14-3 to cut the lead to 65-62 with 16 seconds left on a Haley Schmitt jumper.
However, YSU forced 22 Viking turnovers.
"I thought defensively, for the better part of the second half, we were really good," Boldon said. "I thought that was a difference in the game. Now, the last two-and-a-half minutes were terrible. For the better part of the half, we really picked up our defensive intensity, got some stops, got some rebounds, created some turnovers. I thought that was the difference in the basketball game."
YSU denied Cleveland State easy baskets, for the most part.
"The first thing was to apply ball pressure," Davis said. "We knew if we do that, we could keep them from getting inside and overpower us because we've been having smalls in there lately, like myself. We knew we had to deny reversal and things like that and get them to turn the ball over, which gave us some more energy."
That said, Vikings senior Shalonda Winton, who had 15 rebounds, set the school's single-season scoring record Thursday with 19 points. She finished the season with 659 points. Cori Coleman added 16 points, while Honesty King put in 11.
CSU, which held a 43-37 edge on the boards, made Brown work for her 13 rebounds.
"It's easy to get boxed out and just not pursue the ball anymore," she said. "That can happen to anyone. It's all about the second effort and the second push after.
"They did a good job of boxing out and making sure I didn't rebound as much."
But it was all about effort Thursday as YSU outscored the Vikings 13-5 midway through the first half to take a 26-21 lead - one the Penguins wouldn't relinquish in front of the hearty crowd.
"We were very lethargic to start the game," Boldon said. "They didn't quit on us. We made a couple of shots, got on a run. You could feel the energy in the building. It was a great environment for the young ladies."
This the same energy YSU wants to transfer up the Resch Center in Green Bay when it faces Loyola on Friday.
"We have to come out there with energy and play hard," Davis said. "If we have those two things, we know we can beat anyone."
ON THE HORIZON: Loyola beat sixth-seeded Milwaukee 71-54 in another quarterfinal in order to face YSU.
In the other bracket, top-seeded and No. 20 Green Bay (27-2) rolled past eighth-seeded Valparaiso, 80-59. The Phoenix host the semifinals and final. They play fourth-seeded Detroit (17-12), which beat fifth-seeded Wright State (12-18), 72-56.
YSU-Loyola starts at 6:30 p.m., while Green Bay-Detroit begins at approximately 8:30 p.m.