It was an important night for the Youngstown State University women’s basketball team. With a win the Penguins would not only finish with the team’s third 20-win season in 15 seasons, but would give YSU home court in the first round of the upcoming Horizon League Tournament.
YSU would go on to defeat Valparaiso University 80-57. The Penguins controlled the game from the beginning. YSU took a 10-6 lead with 15:20 remaining in the first half and never looked back. The Penguins never trailed in the game and slowly started to dominate Valpo.
“Well there was a lot of pressure on this game with senior night and getting a home game in the tournament, 20 wins you wanna get to that point that’s always nice,” head coach John Barnes said. “We were missing Kelsea Newman. The first time we played Valpo they didn’t have Franklin, so that was obviously a big difference with their leading scorer. It was a little bit unnerving, but I thought the team played really well, played hard, our bench came in and played well and had just and all around good performance.”
Forward Heidi Schlegel led the Penguins with 26 points. Latisha Walker finished with a double-double—14 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks. Guards Indiya Benjamin Jenna Hirsch combined to score 25 points and knocked down 60 percent of their shots from the floor.
The game was important for another reason unrelated to the team’s record or stats—it was senior night and just before tipoff Barnes and the YSU Athletic Department honored Schlegel and Walker.
Schlegel has been important to the program. During her first year the Penguins were coming off of their worst season in program history—going winless. During Schlegel’s sophomore season the Penguins finished 23-10—the program’s first 20-win season since the 1999-2000 season.
“She’s definitely special to the program,” Barnes said. “Her leadership, her work ethic, leading by example, doing anything she can to help the team win and be successful. I wasn’t there at that time, but from an 0-30 season to two 20 win seasons in two of the last three seasons is pretty special and she had a lot to do with it. I thought Tish (Latisha Walker), had six blocks I think tonight, her career high. I was glad to see both of them have a great game and just contribute to a big win on senior night in their final home regular season game.”
Senior night is always an emotional experience. For many college athletes it’s the last time they will have an opportunity to play in front of their fans. Schlegel said the emotions didn’t have a chance to set in until the end of the game.
“Honestly I was good until now,” Schlegel said. “I really was fine. I saw my dad and tiered up a little bit, but I was here to play basketball—I’m not going to worry about this. We still got a lot of games to play. I wasn’t too emotional. I was a little emotional when Tish and I got taken out of the game, and just to know that the community is so supportive and to see everybody wear my jersey was awesome and so humbling—just to see everybody to supports me and loves me and it was really nice. It was a really good feeling.”