By Joe Scalzo
It’s taken just three years for Youngstown State women’s basketball coach Bob Boldon to turn a winless team into a 20-game winner.
That only seems fast in hindsight, Boldon said.
“Somebody told me last year that it’ll take as long as it takes,” Boldon said. “And I did not like that. But I learned that to be true.
“I don’t know where we are in the continuum. Hopefully this isn’t the top. Hopefully there’s still steps to be taken.”
Step one would be winning tonight. The second-seeded Penguins (21-8) host seventh-seeded Cleveland State (13-16) in the quarterfinals of the Horizon League tournament.
YSU lost last year’s regular season finale at Cleveland State, then returned to the Wolstein Center two days later and fell 59-56 in the tournament’s first round.
“I think it’s something that’s all fresh in our minds,” said Boldon, whose team swept this year’s season series with CSU. “We know they ended our season and they played us tough twice this year, so we’ll be expecting a very good effort.”
YSU finished last season on a nine-game losing streak, then rebounded to post its best season since joining the Horizon League in 2001. The Penguins are 1-11 all-time in the tournament.
Tonight’s game pits two of the league’s best players.
YSU senior Brandi Brown, who was named conference player of the year on Monday, finished second in the league in scoring (20.5 per game) and first in rebounding (11.3).
CSU sophomore Shalonda Winton, a first team all-conference pick and the league’s defensive player of the year, finished first in scoring (22.1), second in rebounds (10.6), sixth in assists (3.9), first in blocks (1.3) and third in steals (2.2).
“She’s tremendous,” Boldon said of Winton. “She’s a great basketball player. It’ll be a challenge. She’s a kid that can score a variety of different ways and that’s what makes her so hard to guard.”
While the Penguins have a good chance of earning a postseason tournament bid — most likely the WNIT — Brown knows her YSU career will soon end. She said she’s trying not to think about it.
“I do know my career is coming to an end and it’s gonna be pretty sad for me,” she said. “But I haven’t been thinking about any accomplishments or any games or games past. I just try to focus on the next game, which is Cleveland State.”