YSU women continue magic of opening playoffs at home
By Dan Hiner
Another strong season means another home postseason game for the Youngstown State women’s basketball team.
The Penguins will host Milwaukee on Wednesday in the first round of the Horizon League tournament.
It marks the sixth time in seven seasons that the Penguins have hosted a postseason game at Beeghly Center.
But it doesn’t get any easier.
The postseason experience is valuable, but the YSU upperclassmen know the margin for error is small.
“Definitely playing on our home court is the best,” Alison Smolinski said Monday. “Our fans, the band, everyone, we love playing here. We play here every single day, we get to practice, so that’s definitely an advantage for us.
“We’re definitely excited about that, but we still need to play our game.”
The Penguins, the third seed, split the season series with the sixth-seeded Panthers. Milwaukee won the first meeting in overtime, 71-68, and YSU took control early in a 67-47 win in the rematch. The home team won both games.
Last season, YSU beat Milwaukee 62-58 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit during the first round of the tournament. The Penguins lost to Green Bay in the semifinals.
YSU seniors Sarah Cash, Melinda Trimmer and Smolinski have been here before. The senior class has hosted three postseason games — one Horizon League tournament game and two Women’s Basketball Invitational contests.
The Penguins have relied on the senior class all year. And they will do it again as YSU attempts to make a tournament run.
“We’re leaning on them — Sarah, Melinda and Al,” YSU head coach John Barnes said. “They’ve been around the longest and have the most experience.
“We’re leaning on them. They’ve really played well and carried us to a lot of victories down the stretch.”
Another Record Watch
Smolinski is on the verge of breaking another record. She needs one more 3-pointer to tie the Horizon League single-season record. Smolinski has 96 entering the tournament. Detroit Mercy’s Senee Shearer made 97 during the 2013-14 season.
Smolinski set the YSU career 3-point record and scored her 1,000th career point already this season.
Horizon League Honors
Smolinski was named the Horizon League Women’s Basketball Player of the Week for the final week of regular season play.
She scored a game-high 19 points and made five 3-pointers in YSU’s 74-61 win at Cleveland State on Saturday.
A Penguin has won the honor six times, with Smolinski and Mary Dunn winning it twice.