YSU WOMEN'S BASKETBALL Good showing good way to start year
The Penguins won 89-84 by holding off a team of mixed veterans.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State women's basketball coach Ed DiGregorio couldn't have asked for a better game than the Penguins had Wednesday night.
YSU fought off a talented Ohio Girls Basketball Magazine Legends All-Star team, posting an 89-84 victory at Beeghly Center.
The regular season begins Saturday against Bowling Green at 7 p.m. at Beeghly Center.
What impressed the veteran coach most was the play of the newcomers to the team.
"I thought our young players did well, especially the freshmen, against a team of veteran players, several with WNBA experience," said DiGregorio. "For a couple of them it was a real learning experience."
Junior Maggie Johnston, who sat out last season after transferring from George Mason, led the Penguins with 25 points, making 9-of-13 shots, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range.
"She's a player and she sees the whole floor when she's out there," said DiGregorio. "We've got to keep her healthy this year."
Three other players were in double figures, including a 20-point effort from sophomore Heather Harris, who made 9-of-14 shots. Senior center Jen Horner added 13 points and eight of them came down the stretch, enabling the Penguins to hold onto the lead.
Sophomore Devin Novak scored 12 points for YSU.
The mix: Larecha Jones, a former Ohio State player, led the Legends with 28 points, while Jannon Roland, a WNBA veteran, added 27.
Johnston, who was playing her first game in more than a year, was happy with the outcome.
"I was pleased with the way I played, especially after sitting out all last year," Johnston said. "It was tough sitting out the season, but I feel that I really learned a lot just practicing with the team."
The Penguins shot very well, making 34-of-64 shots (53.1 percent). They shot 54.5 percent in the second half and were 13-of-31 from the 3-point range.
The Legends, who trailed by 14 points at halftime, shot 52.9 percent in the second half.
The Penguins held a 35-34 edge in rebounding, despite a game-high 14 by Jones. Freshman Jen Perugini paced YSU with nine rebounds and Horner added seven.
The Legends kept the game close by sinking 25-of-33 free throws, while YSU was just 8-for-9.
The Penguins used their accurate outside shooting to dominate the first half, making 9-of-20 3-point shots.
The Penguins trailed 8-5, but Johnston's first 3-pointer tied the score and then Harris and Horner each added 3-pointers as YSU took a 14-8 advantage.
Three more quick buckets, two by Harris and one by Horner, pushed the Penguins into a 20-11 edge and they built that lead to 32-20 on back-to-back 3-pointers by Novak and Johnston.
YSU would hit two more 3-point goals, one by sophomore Cathy Hanek and another by Johnston, for a 42-28 lead at halftime.
But then the Legends, who had only six players, came roaring back.
Roland opened the second half with three straight 3-pointers, then after Johnston hit a long-range goal, Roland added a fourth shot from behind the arc as the Legends battled back to within a point, 51-50, with 13:42 remaining.
Contest tied: The Penguins held onto a slim lead, but four straight free throws by Jones and then a rebound layup by the former Buckeye tied the contest at 68 with 5:25 remaining.
Sophomore Jessica Forsythe made a 3-pointer and Novak sank two more long-range baskets as the Penguins pulled back into a 77-72 lead.
Horner then scored eight of YSU's next 10 points as the Penguins took an 87-82 lead with 34 seconds remaining.