Penguins Survive Milwaukee Comeback to Advance in #MotorCityMadness

Sarah Cash (Photo by Jose Juarez)
Sarah Cash (Photo by Jose Juarez)

The Youngstown State women's basketball team survived a major comeback bid by Milwaukee to win 62-58 on Sunday and advance to the semifinals of the 2018 Little Caesars Horizon League Basketball Championship in Detroit.

The Penguins played smothering defense for three quarters to build a 48-31 lead with less than 11 minutes left. Milwaukee stormed back by scoring 20 straight points to take a 51-48 lead, but YSU withstood the charge and countered with an 8-0 run that ended up being the difference.

Sarah Cash scored 24 points and added eight rebounds, and Indiya Benjamin scored six of her 13 points in the final three minutes as YSU rallied. Natalie Myers came off the bench to score a career-high 12 points, and she hit a huge 3-pointer with 3:30 left in the fourth period to help the Penguins stop UWM's 20-point run.

Milwaukee hit its first four field-goal attempts of the day to take a 9-4 lead less than three minutes into the game. The Penguins held them to two points the rest of the period, and the Panthers managed just 11 points in each of the second and third quarters.

Benjamin hit a 3 at the 4:28 mark of the first period to spark a 15-2 run for the Penguins that put them up 19-11 40 seconds into the second period. The Penguins extended their lead to 33-22 at halftime when Myers hit the first of her four 3-pointers with 40 seconds remaining.

The 11-point advantage at halftime was their first double-digit lead of the game, and the lead grew to 17 three times in the third period. The final time came when Myers hit a triple with 33 seconds remaining to put the Penguins up 48-31.

UWM's Jenny Lindner made two free throws with 22 seconds left, and the Panthers went on to score the first 18 points of the fourth behind a heroic effort from Kelsey Cunningham to go up 51-48 with 3:36 left. Myers answered with a 3 on YSU's next possession to tie the score, and Cunningham's 12th point of the quarter gave Milwaukee its final lead at 53-51 with three minutes remaining.

Benjamin made two free throws to tie the score, and Chelsea Olson hit a triple at the 2:13 mark that put the Penguins up 56-53. Benjamin hit a 3 just over a minute later to push the margin to six, and YSU went 3-of-6 from the free-throw line in the final 21 seconds to hold on. The Penguins forced a miss by Steph Kostowicz with about four seconds left that would have tied the score at 61. Cash was fouled and made both of her attempts to extend the lead to the final margin.

The fifth-seeded Penguins advance to play top-seeded Green Bay at 1 p.m. on Monday at Little Caesars Arena for a spot in the championship game. The contest will be broadcast live on 1390 WNIO and ESPN3.