The Youngstown State women's basketball team went toe-to-toe with Green Bay for 20 minutes, but the Phoenix came out with a second-half spark on both ends to beat the Penguins 66-45 on Monday in the semifinals of the 2018 Little Caesars Horizon League Basketball Championship.
YSU led the top-seeded and 21st-ranked Phoenix by nine in the first period and 28-26 at halftime as it looked to win for the 11th time in the last 13 games. Green Bay scored the first eight points of the third period and went on to outscore the Penguins 40-17 in the second half.
Green Bay will advance to play in the championship game on Tuesday, and Youngstown State will wait to see if their strong play over the last six-plus weeks will warrant a postseason bid.
Sarah Cash led the Penguins with 12 points, and she reached 1,000 for her career when she made a free-throw at the 3:48 mark of the second period to complete a three-point play. That put the Penguins up 26-19, but Green Bay went on a 7-2 run to close out the half to build momentum.
Jessica Lindstrom had 17 points and nine rebounds to lead Green Bay.
After Green Bay scored the opening points of the game, Youngstown State scored the next 10 points to go up 10-2. Benjamin scored the first seven points in that stretch, and she assisted on an Arbanas triple at the 5:08 mark to complete the run. Chelsea Olson then hit a 3 with 2:54 remaining to put the Penguins up 13-4, which was their largest lead of the day. Cash later hit a 3 to make the score, 16-8, and YSU led 16-10 after a quarter.
A putback by Mary Dunn put the Penguins up 20-12 at the 7:26 mark of the second period, and YSU held off Green Bay's initial charge with a 3 by Arbanas and Cash's three-point play that put her at the 1,000 points milestone. Cash had YSU's only bucket over the final 3:48, and Allie LeClaire's 3-pointer with 46 seconds left brought the Phoenix to within 28-26.
YSU missed its first four field-goal attempts and had four turnovers to start the third period, and Karly Murphy scored six straight points during Green Bay's initial 8-0 burst. Natalie Myers hit a 3 at the 3:31 mark to get the Penguins back within three, and a Cash bucket less than a minute later kept YSU to within 37-33. Green Bay scored the final 10 points of the third period to go up 47-33, and the run extended to 17 straight when Murphy's layup at the 7:18 mark of the fourth put the Phoenix up 54-33. YSU got no closer than 16.
Green Bay outscored YSU 12-0 off turnovers and 9-0 off offensive rebounds in the second half as they pulled away. Youngstown State competed on the boards and was outrebounded by just six despite shooting 34 percent. The Phoenix's 14 second-chance points came on just eight offensive rebounds.