By Dan Hiner
It’s the fourth quarter, the game’s tied and the clock’s continuing to run. Three seconds, two seconds, one second and…swish.
It’s the moment most kids grow up dreaming about when they’re playing pickup games or in practice. The game is hanging in the balance and it comes down to one shot.
That same scenario played out in the Youngstown State University women’s basketball team’s 69-67 win over the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
As the clock was running down, the ball ended up in the hands of forward Kelsea Newman. With two defenders in her face, Newman hit a step-back jumper from just inside the 3-point line.
“I honestly couldn’t see anything in front of me…I kinda just went for it. It just happened to be a very convenient time that I made a shot,” Newman said.
The play was originally intended to go to star forward Sarah Cash, but the play started to break down. YSU head coach John Barnes said there was no doubt Newman was going to make the shot because Newman regularly makes similar shots from the 3-point line.
“Kelsea had it in her mind that she was going to make the shot and that’s what you need. That’s what a shooter does,” Barnes said. “They want that situation; they want the ball in their hands and to take the shot. As soon as it left her hand, all four coaches said they felt like it was going in.”
Newman only scored six points coming off the bench. Newman was a starter at the beginning of the season, but after the team realized they needed more rebounding, Newman started rotating with forward Janae Jackson.
“She [Newman] plays a lot. Janae [Jackson] kinda went into Kelsea’s spot a little bit,” Barnes said. “We just need more rebounding out there and a little bit more athleticism — and Janae gives us that. Kelsea, I don’t think, is playing a whole lot different in terms of minutes.
“But no one cares. That’s the nice thing about this team. Nobody cares how many points they score or how many minutes they play. They just want to stick together and get wins and hopefully we could continue to do that.”
But the shot wouldn’t have mattered if it weren’t for the performance by YSU shooting guard Nikki Arbanas. She had one of the best nights of her young colligate career.
Despite a recent shooting slump, Arbanas tied a career-high with 25 points and Arbanas’ scoring kept the Penguins in the game long enough to keep things tight in the fourth quarter.
“The team made a lot of great extra passes. They might have been open, but I was more open, so they made the extra pass. That’s why I made them [open shots],” Arbanas said.
YSU (12-2, 3-0 Horizon League) struggled offensively in the first quarter. The Penguins faced a 20-8 deficit heading into the second quarter, but the Penguins started to get their shots to fall in the second.
The team connected on five 3-pointers in the second quarter, including an Arbanas 3-pointer that tied the game at 34 with 23 seconds remaining in the first half.
Arbanas was the difference in the second half. She scored nine points on three 3-pointers in the third quarter. The defense started to guard Arbanas more closely in the fourth quarter, but she was still able to contribute four points from the free throw line.
The Penguins were able to pick up the win even though Cash struggled from the field. Cash only scored six points in the game and was in foul trouble early in the contest.
“It definitely proves how good of a team that we have the potential to be this season,” Arbanas said. “And just knowing if we play like that for 40 minutes, there’s a lot of things we could possibly do.”