By Joe Scalzo
With 10 minutes left in Saturday’s game, against a team with a better record, more size, more athleticism and a 15-point lead, the Youngstown State women’s basketball team took one look at its odds, then opted to ignore them.
In short, the going got tough.
“We got going,” said senior guard Macey Nortey.
Playing arguably their best stretch of basketball in ... well, in at least three years, the Penguins forced overtime before falling to Horizon League-rival Wright State 71-66 in front of 2,500 feisty fans at Beeghly Center.
“I think tonight is a step forward,” said Penguins coach Bob Boldon. “I know that sounds odd coming from me because I’m not happy unless we win and play well.
“We didn’t win but we did play well.”
YSU’s comeback came slowly, possession by possession, as the Penguins got within six with seven minutes left, only to trail by 10 with five minutes left. But the Penguins picked up their defense, holding the Raiders scoreless over the next four minutes to trim the deficit to three, 57-54, with just over a minute remaining.
After Shaunda Sandifer’s jumper brought it back to five with 1:08 left, Nortey hit a huge 3-pointer from the left corner. Wright State (14-7, 7-2) then missed on the other end, YSU’s Monica Touvelle missed a long 3 and the Raiders’ Kim Denning had a chance to seal it at the foul line with eight seconds left.
But Denning missed the front end of a one-and-one and Nortey opted to run the floor rather than call a timeout. She drove into the heart of WSU’s defense and put up a left-handed layup under the basket that fell in with 0.2 seconds left.
When asked if she’s made a bigger shot in her career, Nortey said, “No. Against Wright State last year I messed up on a play so I guess that was kind of my rebuttal.”
Demmings took over in overtime, scoring 10 of her 25 points over the five-minute stretch, including an off-balance, left-leaning jumper with 11.6 seconds left in which she was fouled. (Degree of difficulty: 8.9).
She made the free throw to stretch the lead to 69-66 and YSU’s Brandi Brown missed two shots in the final seconds that would have cut it to one.
Molly Fox’s two free throws with eight seconds left sealed it.
Brown had 11 points and eight rebounds and Kenya Middlebrooks and Heidi Schlegel each added 10 for the Penguins (9-11, 3-6), whose 47 3-point attempts were one off the school record.
“We showed character and we showed toughness,” said Boldon. “It was heartbreaking to lose a game like that when we got such support from the community but I’m thrilled to death the kids got to play in front of [that crowd].
“I’m disappointed they couldn’t see us walk away with a win.”
Maybe, but two years removed from a 30-loss season, it almost felt like they did. And when Nortey was told the Penguins might have thrown in the towel in the past, she smiled and said, “That was the key word you just said — that was in the past.
“We don’t do that anymore.”