Green Bay, Wis. - The Youngstown State women's basketball team nearly overcame a 17-point second-half deficit, but came up just short falling to top-seed Green Bay 63-54 on Friday night in the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament at the Kress Center.
With 10:58 left in the contest, the Guins trailed 51-34 before seizing momentum and putting a scare into the crowd and the Phoenix.
Indiya Benjamin sparked the comeback bid with a 3-pointer before Kelley Wright scored a layup off a pump fake and a Kelsea Newman followed with another 3-pointer as the 17-point margin quickly shrank to 51-42.
Kaili Lukan pushed the margin back into double digits but Benjamin reeled off the next eight points by herself to make it a three-point game. The first was a baseline driving layup at the 7:38 mark. On YSU's next possession, she took a deep three and thanks to a friendly roll pulled the Guins within 53-47. With 5:40 remaining she made the first free throw before missing the second and made it a five-point game.
Following another Penguin stop, Benjamin split the defense for a pretty one-handed layup and for the first time since early in the game the Guins were down just three.
After Allie LeClaire scored to push the Phoenix advantage back to 55-50, Heidi Schlegel quickly brought the Penguins back within a possession at 55-52.
YSU had a chance to tie the contest after Lukan missed the front end of a one-and-one but Benjamin's 3-pointer was off the mark. After another stop, Benjamin's off-balance one-hander as the shot clock was expiring with 1:41 was again off the mark.
The Penguins appeared to make a stop, but an an unforunate tip by Tesha Buck off a missed 3-pointer by Mehryn Kraker found its way into Megan Lukan's arms and her wide open layup pushed the Phoenix lead back up to five points.
From that point on the Guins could not get within five the rest of the contest.
With the win, Green Bay improves to 27-4 overall and will play Wright State in the Horizon League Championship Game on Sunday. The Penguins fall to 21-10 with the loss.
For the game, YSU shot 34.5 percent making 19-of-55 attempts. The Penguins were 6-of-29 from beyond the 3-point arc and 10-of-15 from the free-throw line. Green Bay was 20-of-53 from the field (37.7 percent) and 5-of-19 from beyond the 3-point arc. The Phoenix opened the contest making four of its first seven 3-point attempts.
The Phoenix started the game hot from beyond the 3-point arc making a pair and jumping out to an 8-0. The Penguins steadied themselves and crept within four points at 16-12 following a Benjamin 3-pointer and 18-14 on a Schlegel basket.
Schlegel finished with 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for her 12th double-double of the season. She moved into fourth place in school history in career points scored with more than 1,700.
Benjamin had 16 points, 13 of which came in the second half. Latisha Walker scored eight points and led the team with 11 rebounds.
Kaili Lukan had a game-high 27 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field and had an 11-of-12 performance from the free-throw line. Kraker had 11 points and Terry finished with 10 for the Phoenix who led 38-22 at halftime.
The Penguins now wait until Monday night to see if they are selected for the WNIT or the WBI. YSU last played in the WNIT in 2013 and would be a first-time WBI participant.