Stop, look up from your phone screen

YOUNGSTOWN — Screen goes blank. Quick vibrate on an attempted restart. Nothing.

Quick trip to my cell phone provider confirms my worst fears. My phone is dead. A new one isn’t coming until Monday.

Weird feeling not having that tether cord attached, being the slave to that handheld device, checking Facebook, Twitter, email and texts at every spare moment.

It felt good — freedom I haven’t experienced in a decade or so, like the first warm day of spring and driving for an hour or two. You don’t know where you’re going, but it just feels right. So did this.

It was a big day for my 12-year-old daughter, Alexa. She was a ballgirl for the Youngstown State University women’s basketball team that day.

We arrived at the gym about a half hour before tipoff. She’s in a gray T-shirt with a YSU logo, pants and red Converse low-top shoes. I’m wearing a red sweater with a white collar shirt underneath and a Looney Toons tie, complimented with black dress pants. My son, Erik, calls me Ken Bone on the way out the door, the usual I expect with this kind of outfit.

Alexa and I finally see the YSU women’s basketball team appear from the entrance on the northwest end of the Beeghly Center, coming up from the Penguins locker room.

She went with the team, watched them warm up under the north basket. Then, Alexa headed downstairs and said there were some nice leather seats as she waited for YSU coach John Barnes and his staff to talk to the team in another room.

Later, Alexa took her seat near the end of the bench. She had one of the best seats in the building to see the best team in the Horizon League as the Penguins handled Cleveland State that day. Sure, Wright State is a game ahead of the trio of YSU, Green Bay and IUPUI in the standings, but the Penguins are 11-1 at home. The only slip up is a late-November loss to a Yale team where YSU blew a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead. Lesson learned.

Four of the next nine games are on the road. There’s a good shot this team gets over 20 wins before the league postseason tournament and gets a first-round home game.

Alexa, you got to see the tandem of Mary Dunn and Sarah Cash, the best post duo in the Horizon League, dominate a Cleveland State team that outrebounds its opponents game in and game out.

There was Alison Smolinski, the program’s all-time 3-point shooter, showing off her long-range prowess.

McKenah Peters, who I see as an older version of Alexa, was busy crashing the boards and playing tenacious defense as usual. She is one of a handful players on this team who will be receiving post-season honors. Alexa has an intense face every time she took the court this fall and always dives for a loose basketball.

Chelsea Olson, the team’s leading rebounder, is like the team’s unsung hero. She’s adjusting to a new position from the wing to the backcourt, but has been a great catalyst for this team in the absence of Indiya Benjamin and Nikki Arbanas, the stability this team has had for the past couple of seasons.

Sure, there are other moving parts on this team, nine to be exact. Each one has a role. YSU is small, but mighty.

Saturday was an experience Alexa had, smacking hands with players as they came to the bench, being part of the team’s huddles and following them to the locker room.

No phone for me to tweet out updates or videos, or look at other things. It was a bit irritating not having my phone, but my camera captured the moment much better.

It wasn’t controlling my attention, what my daughter was doing that day and YSU women’s basketball was. That was a peaceful feeling, something I should try, disconnecting again. This time it’ll be on my terms, not the phone’s.

jvargo@tribtoday.com

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