YSU moving on
YOUNGSTOWN – Youngstown State senior Melissa Thompson was near the foul line with about 40 seconds remaining. She quickly looked right toward teammate Heidi Schelgel, who was covered in the post.
Her other teammates were either guarded or out of her line of sight.
But the lane in front of her, that was a different story. There was nothing but daylight between her and the basket.
Thompson drove the lane, made the ensuing lay-up and was fouled by Oakland’s Kim Bee with 35.9 seconds remaining.
“I didn’t realize how open the lane was,” Thompson said. “I was looking to pass and then, ‘Oh, I can drive it.’ I went and drove the ball. Luckily I made it.”
Thompson’s ensuing free throw put the Penguins up by three. She finished the game with 15 points.
“I was happy she realized the situation and went hard to the basket,” YSU coach John Barnes said. “She’s at her best when she’s attacking.”
Third-seeded YSU held off the sixth-seeded Golden Grizzlies for a 68-64 victory during Wednesday’s Horizon League quarterfinal game at the Beeghly Center.
Oakland (13-17) tried to tie the game at 67, but Victoria Lipscomb misfired on a 3 with 22 seconds remaining.
Thompson grabbed the rebound near Oakland’s bench, but Bethany Watterworth tied her up. The Golden Grizzlies had the possession arrow and another shot to tie YSU (15-15) with 15.9 seconds left.
Oakland’s Elana Popkey inbounded the ball and weaved her way to the top of the key as YSU’s Liz Hornberger fronted her. Popkey tried to throw herself into Hornberger to draw the foul, but her 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining was to the left of the basket. The foul wasn’t called either.
“We said, ‘Give space, don’t come close to them, box out,’ ” Barnes said. “We were a little close on that, but she really jumped hard into her.”
Hornberger, who had 11 points, was worried she was too close to Popkey around the 3-point line.
“I should’ve known better because it would’ve been a foul on me if she made it,” Hornberger said. “I could’ve kissed my senior season butt good-bye.
“(Assistant) Coach (John) Nicolais talked to me about it. The more I think about it, the more my hands are shaking. Oh my gosh, I should never do that again.”
Schlegel, who had 21 points, got the Popkey miss and was fouled with 6.9 seconds left. Schlegel, who had 10 rebounds for her 10th double-double this season, made the second of two free throws to give YSU a 68-64 advantage.
YSU now plays second-seeded Wright State (24-8), which beat Milwaukee on Wednesday, 73-64. Friday’s semifinal game is at top-seeded Green Bay. The official time will be announced this morning by the Horizon League.
Green Bay (21-8) faces fourth-seeded UIC (22-8) in the other semifinal on Friday.
The two semifinal winners meet Sunday afternoon in Green Bay in the championship game, with the winner going to the NCAA Tournament.
The Raiders beat YSU both times this season.
“It’s definitely better than playing at their place,” said Barnes of facing Wright State for a third time. “Wright State is definitely the most talented team in the league. They have the player of the year in the league, who is outstanding. They create all kinds of matchup problems for us, but we’re very motivated to play our best game on Friday.”
Hornberger said the Raiders can’t be taken lightly.
“You have to be extra mentally tough with them,” Hornberger said. “You have to play defense every time. They’re scoring machines.”
The YSU senior guard is quick to point out the Penguins might not be playing in Friday’s game, the second semifinal in as many years for YSU, without Latisha Walker’s eight points, five rebounds and two blocks off the bench.
“She played amazing in the second half,” Hornberger said.
Barnes agreed with Hornberger about the 6-2 junior forward.
“We needed everything she gave us and it was great to see,” Barnes said.
Oakland’s Bee had 18 points, while Watterworth had 14 and Lipscomb added 13.
HORNBERGER TIES RECORD: The YSU senior guard from Reading, Pa., tied the YSU 3-point mark set by Dianne Rappach (1988-92). Rappach, a 1988 Mathews High School graduate, had 198 triples. Hornberger had three against Oakland to tie her with Rappach.
“I don’t get that without passes, screens and all the help on the court,” Hornberger said. “I know I’m proud and I know my parents will be proud, let’s put it that way.”