Archive for November, 2012

Why Women’s Basketball At YSU Is Fun Again

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The transformation that Bob Boldon and his staff have made in three years is beyond comprehension.  Boldon took over a team that went 0-30 the year before he took over and has gradually built a powerful program comprised of mostly undersized sharpshooters who now have the right mindset and work ethic to compile a winning season.

Leading the path for this years Lady Penguins team is Brandi Brown, one last time. Brown will break more records during the season before departing, but she has proven in the past few seasons that she would trade every individual accolade she ever received for her teams success.

Having that weapon one last time, does Boldon feel a sense of urgency to win this season?

“You try to win as many games as you can every year and it is a process”, said Boldon. “There may be a sense of urgency in Brandi.  She is definitely playing the best basketball I have ever seen her play.  She will definitely be missed, and it is exciting to coach somebody that talented who is working as hard as she is right now.”

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Paneech:  Now in your third season, where do you feel you have taken this program?

Boldon:  Offensively, we are significantly better than we were at this time two years ago. You can assume that we will score some points, but the question is, can we play good enough defense to win some games?  That was our point of emphasis all Summer.  I think we are in a situation now that we are taking defense as seriously now, as we took offense in the past.

Paneech:  Is it realistic to assume this team should win 15 to 20 games this season?

Boldon:  I have never sat down with our staff and projected how many games we could win.  We try to win every game.  Now, we probably wont go undefeated this year, but by saying you will win 15 games, you are also assuming that you will lose 15 games.  I can’t prepare our kids properly if I think it is a game that we can’t win.

Paneech:  All kinds of new faces here this year, as well as some faces that are no longer around.  Discuss the turnover within your program.

Boldon:  The new kids have brought a plethora of new things.  We got a little bit quicker, a little bit taller, and a little bit more basketball savvy.  I think we became a better basketball team, which was the goal when we were recruiting.  We had gaps to fill, and I think we did a good job filling them.  Once everything gels and the new kids start to learn everything that we are teaching, they will blend with the veterans we have who already understand the system.  The new kids are very athletic and have added a fun dimension to our practices.

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Paneech:  What is the strength of this team and what needs developed?

Boldon:  Our biggest strength is Brandi.  You get a player who can score, rebound, pass the ball, and play defense.  She epitomizes what we are trying to do.  Those things I mentioned  are things we are working on with everybody and every practice – to make them better shooters and passers, and to play better defense and get rebounds.  I would be doing someone who is shooting pretty good a huge disservice if I said ‘that is good enough’.  43% from three isn’t good enough, we have to try to get to 45, or 47, or 52.  Constantly raise the bar.

Paneech:  So, at this level, no matter how good something is, you convince your players that it could be better?

Boldon:  Absolutely.  That is how we do it.  We meet weekly and talk about player development as a staff.  Monica (Touvelle) shot 69 out of 75 from the three-point line at practice the other day.  It doesn’t leave a lot of room for improvement, but we will encourage her to strive for 70.  They really want to be challenged and they will fight you sometimes, but you can never get complacent.

Paneech:  The league is tough, how can you keep the team focused throughout the season?

Boldon:  Last year, we played Green Bay as tough as anybody in the conference.  There was a confidence and the returners have done a good job keeping that mentality and keeping that edge.  The new kids are starting to buy into it.  It is never going to be beautiful, but there is a strong level of competitiveness, which to me, is really, really exciting.

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Paneech:  With Butler dropping out of the league and the schedule falling to pieces with little time to fix it, how challenging was it to find the games?

Boldon:  It’s difficult for Coach Jackson and I, as we share the making of the schedule responsibilities.  We don’t share that information with the kids until it is the right time, and really, they just want to know what time practice is and what time the bus is leaving.  We have most of next year scheduled already.  For Coach Jackson, it creates headaches to space games.  He did a nice job putting it together.

Paneech:  Two Big East teams and a Big-12 team on the schedule this season.  Two years ago, no shot, but this year can they all be wins?

Boldon:  Two years ago, I think we would have been intimidated.  This year, we are a lot better suited for those types of challenges.  These teams are incredibly more athletic than us, and certainly taller than us.  The taller than us thing is something we have learned to deal with.

Paneech:  What is harder?  Trying not to be embarrassed every game in your first season, or in your third year to win every game?

Boldon:  The first year is worse.  This team is getting really close to being really good.  We are getting more consistent.  We encourage and challenge the kids to work their hardest and to make the people in this city proud to say this is their team.

I think they get it done this season.  Credit Boldon and staff for mandating a system that yields positive results.  I will be opposite the preseason pollsters who picked this team to finish eighth and say these girls will win 20 games.  18 in the regular season and two more in the tournament.  They can shoot and are fearless – a basketball coaches dream.

YSU Falls In OT To Kent, 85-78

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Youngstown State was glad to be playing anywhere but Pittsburgh, and seven days off meant a well-rested team could handle some overtime.  Unfortunately for the Penguins (3-4), Kent State was up to the challenge and came out on the right end of a very competitive basketball game, 85-78.  The Penguins demise in the game was a 4-20 shooting performance from three-point range.

“We had chances in a hard fought ball game, but we did not shoot well from three and we are not playing good in big moments”, said Jerry Slocum.

In the overtime, both teams lit it up, but a three-point play by Kent’s Darren Goodson with 2:21 left gave the Flashes (5-2) a 78-74 lead.  After cutting it to a two-point game, the Penguins threw the ball out of bounds and had to go into foul mode.  Kent State did well to convert and hold a lead.

The Penguins and the Golden Flashes played a pretty even first half.  YSU got ten points from Damian Eargle and ten more from Kendrick Perry (above) in the opening stanza.  KSU got nine apiece from Mark Henninger and Randal Holt, but it was the Penguins who headed into the locker room ahead, 36-34.

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Kent State used a 13-3 run to open the second half.  Holt knocked down a three which gave the Flashes their largest lead in the contest at 47-39 with 16:14 left to play in the game.  Kamren Belin cut the lead to 47-43 with just over 15 minutes to go on a nice drive from the right of the paint, in.

Perry than did what he does best, throw the Penguins on his back for a stretch of time when everything seems to be going wrong.  First Perry hit a three to make it 49-46, and on the next possession, he hit a runner straight down the lane to trim the Kent lead to one.  Perry then hit a three with 12:14 left in the game to give YSU a 51-50 lead.

DJ Cole (above) gave the Penguins a spark when he grabbed  rebound and went the length of the floor, finishing his drive with a wicked crossover dribble.  The basket pulled the Penguins to within one at 59-58 with just over eight minutes to play.

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With 5:37 left in the game, the Penguins tied the game at 63 when Blake Allen knocked down a three with a hand in his face. The next basket either team would score came at the 2:36 mark, three minutes later, when Eargle connected on a pair of free throws that gave YSU a 65-63 lead.

Melvin Tabb completed the traditional three-point play to put Kent back on top.  Belin would tie things up on a free throw with 1:14 left.  Kent got the ball in a tie game with 26 seconds left,and after a timeout, failed to convert forcing an overtime.

“We have played a lot of really good teams”, added Slocum.  ” I do feel like we have beaten ourselves in each loss though.”

YSU was paced by Perry who finished with 26 points.  Eargle finished up with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Allen chipped in 12.

“They made a couple more plays then we did”, said Perry.  ”We have to get better at finishing games.”

Kent State got a good night out of Chris Evans who finished with 24 points.

YSU Women Win By 20 To Improve To 4-0

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Liz Hornberger scored a career-high 18 points, and the Youngstown State women’s basketball team scored 51 points on 63.6-percent shooting in the second half to defeat Miami (Ohio) 76-56 on Sunday at Millett Hall.

The Penguins improved to 4-0 for the first time since the 1996-97 season and won at Miami for the first time since 1979. The RedHawks appeared in the WNIT last season and were picked to win the East Division of the Mid-American Conference prior to this year.

Hornberger scored 12 of her points in the second half, and Heidi Schlegel scored all 12 of her points in the second half in her first game of the season. Brandi Brown added 18 points while Shar’Rae Davis had 12 points and Karen Flagg finished with a career-best 10.

Courtney Osborn finished with 15 points to lead Miami, which dropped to 3-2.

Following a sloppy first half that saw the teams tied at 25 after 27 combined turnovers, Youngstown State scored 13 points in the first 4:14 of the second half to go up 38-30. Jessica Rupright made a bucket for Miami to cut the deficit to six, but Hornberger answered with her second triple of the period to start a five-point run for the Penguins. The RedHawks did not get closer than eight the rest of the game.

Youngstown State will remain on the road to play Northern Kentucky on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Brandi Brown Named Co-Player of The Week In Horizon League

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Youngstown State senior women’s basketball player Brandi Brown has been named the Horizon League Co-Player of the Week for the period ending Nov. 18, the conference office announced on Monday.

Brown averaged 25 points and 17 rebounds in leading the Penguins to victories over Buffalo and Bryant last week. She registered game highs of 24 points and 15 rebounds at Buffalo while adding three assists and three steals. She had 14 points and eight rebounds in the first half alone. Brown then improved to 26 points and a career-high-tying 19 rebounds against Bryant in the Penguins’ home opener on Sunday. She had 20 points and 13 rebounds in the second half against the Bulldogs.

Brown is the League’s Player of the Week for the fourth time in her career and for the first time since her sophomore year. So far this season, the native of Pomona, Calif., is averaging 22 points and 15 rebounds in helping the Penguins to their first 3-0 start since 1999.

Brown shared the weekly honor with Shareta Brown from Detroit.

The Penguins will head back on the road to play at Miami (Ohio) on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Chris Elkins Awarded MVFC Lineman of The Week

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Youngstown State junior offensive guard Chris Elkins was selected as the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s Offensive Lineman of the Week, the league announced on Monday.

Elkins played all 69 offensive snaps for the Penguins in the season-finale win over Indiana State. YSU had 248 yards passing and 146 yards rushing in the impressive victory again st one of the nation’s top defenses. The 27 points scored by the Guins were the most allowed by the Sycamores in a game this season.

TB Jamaine Cook rushed for 124 yards while quarterback Kurt Hess threw for 248 yards in the victory. YSU had 394 yards of total offense in the contest.

Elkins was the team’s Offensive Line of the Game for his performance. He had an overall grade of 88 percent, a technique grade of 100 percent and led the way with five knockdowns.

YSU Football Does Not Get Selected For Playoff Game

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The Youngstown State football team learned their postseason fate on Sunday afternoon, and it was not good news.  The Penguins were not awarded an at-large bid by the FCS Selection Committee.

Credit the coaches and team for picking up the pieces and making an exciting run by winning their last three games of the season.

The 7-4 season, which most programs would relish, was not enough.

October was a disaster for this team.  In my opinion, the real problem started in September.  On September 22, the Penguins won a game many thought they could not, defeating Northern Iowa to run their record to 4-0.

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After wins against Pitt, Valparaiso, Albany, and Northern Iowa, the Penguins were forced to hibernate for a week.  September 29th was a bye week.  Some saw the bye week as an advantage to better prepare for North Dakota State the following week, but the bye week may have took the sharpness out of the tack.

The next four contests were ugly as YSU got hammered in Fargo.  The next three games, all losses, dropped the Penguins to 4-4.  The resiliency of the football team shined through with wins over South Dakota and Western Illinois (mostly everyone else in the league got to play these two teams also).  The crescendo of the season may have been on the final day, as the Penguins seemed to do everything right in defeating Indiana State.

Dom Rich may have said it best after the game.

“If we get in, we will not lose a game”, said Rich.  ”We are playing our best football right now.”

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Coach Eric Wolford knew that winning the last three games would still not regain control of the Penguins own destiny and that their fate would be determined by other teams results and voters opinions.

Wolford thought the win over Pitt should carry the weight of two wins, as a win over any FBS team should.  The YSU coach was confident that his Penguins would be given strong consideration.

The reality of being excluded was the automatic bids.  Teams from less talented conferences got a team in, ten of the twenty altogether.  That left two at-large bids going to Illinois State and South Dakota State from the MVFC.  It is a rare feat for a conference to put four teams into that small of a field.

Unseeded at-large bids went to Appalachian State, Cal Poly, Illinois State, New Hampshire, Sam Houston State, South Dakota State, Stony Brook and Wofford.

Trevor Parks, YSU Sports Information Director, and I exchanged texts during the second half of the Penguins game about other teams who would have probably needed to get beat for the Penguins to get in.  By the end, just about all of those teams either were winning or had already won.

So suddenly, the season that started with so much hope has elapsed.  Coach Cochran will probably have a program in place by December.  Linemen will be eating rocks and glass, backs will vow to get bigger, faster, and stronger, and 2013 can be another step forward for a program inching closer to the declared standards of making the playoffs and winning championships.

YSU Women 3-0 For First Time This Decade

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The Youngstown State women’s basketball team used a tenacious defensive effort and a dominant performance on the offensive glass en route to a 75-59 win over Bryant on Sunday afternoon at the Beeghly Center.

The Penguins, who improve to 3-0 for the first time since 1999, forced 29 turnovers that led to 34 points and collected 15 steals.  YSU shot just 36.6 percent from the field but were aided by an impressive 20 offensive rebounds.

Not long ago, shooting that low of a percentage equalled automatic defeat for the Lady Penguins.  Credit coach Bob Boldon and his staff for working hard on rebounding to create second chances.

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Senior Brandi Brown (above) led the Penguins with 26 points and 19 rebounds while freshman Shar’Rae Davis scored a career-high 23 points with five steals and four assists.

The Penguins used a 14-0 run late in the second half to extend a 49-47 lead at the 9:01 mark into an insurmountable 63-47 advantage with 5:29 left.  During the spurt, Brown and Davis combined for 12 of the 14 points.

Bryant would never cut the lead to under 12 the rest of the way and the Guins lead by as many as 18, 75-57, after Davis’ three-point play with 31 seconds left.

Bryant, who shot 52.2 percent from the field, falls to 0-4 and was led by Danielle Douglas and Naana Ankoma-Mensa, who had 14 points each.

The Penguins visit Miami (Ohio), Sunday, Nov. 25, at 2 p.m.

Penguins Close Regular Season With A 27-6 Pasting Of Indiana State

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Youngstown State came into their last regular season game knowing that they had to win against a good Indiana State team to have any chance at all to make the postseason.  Taking care of their business to the tune of 27-6, all YSU could do was hope for some help to make the playoffs.

The billing for this game was the matchup of running backs as Jamaine Cook and Shakir Bell, the two anchors of their teams respective offenses.  However, field goal kicking took center stage, and nobody would have predicted a David Brown and Tanner Fritschle matchup to determine the outcome of two potent offensive units.

Bell, reportedly, did not start the game for disciplinary reasons.  Toward the end of the first quarter, the Sycamores junior tailback emerged from the bench.  In the end though, the YSU offense proved to be the best defense against Bell.  By building a big lead, the Sycamores were forced to pas more than they normally would like, meaning no Bell to worry about.

Brown booted a 20 yard field goal in the first quarter and a 47-yarder before the half.  Fritschle kicked a 30-yard field goal.  With the two field goals, Brown put the Penguins ahead, 6-3, at the half.

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Fritschle would boot a 32-yard field goal that made it a 6-6 game.  Once the Penguins punted on their ensuing possession, the Sycamores drove deep into Penguin territory, but came away with zero points as Donald D’Alesio picked off a pass attempt at the YSU three yard line.

The Penguins would take that possession and turned it into a 97-yard drive that culminated in Kurt Hess throwing a beautiful fade pattern to Andrew Williams with 3:20 remaining in the third period.

With that touchdown pass, Hess’s 52nd, the junior quarterback surpassed Tom Zetts as the Penguins all-time touchdown tosser.  In the present, it gave the Penguins a 13-6 lead.

The Penguins controlled all three phases of the game.  The special teams were the best they have been all season, and the defense has improved steadily to look as good as they had all year.

“Our conference deserves to have four teams in the playoffs.  It is like the SEC at this level.  We beat a BCS team [Pitt] and I have always been told that those count as two”, said YSU Coach Eric Wolford.

Coach Wolford was as pleased as he had been with any of the other six Penguin victories.

“I feel confident with our strength of schedule, it will be enough for the committee to take a look at us.  Anytime you can hold Bell under 100 yards, it’s a good day for your defense”, commented Wolford.

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On their next possession, which started in the the third quarter and went into the 14:18 mark of the fourth, the Penguins scored again to make it 20-6.  Cook capped off the short, six-play drive with a 32-yard burst off the left edge.

Once the Penguins went back on defense, they had Indiana State in an obvious passing mode and did a great job preventing anything big from happening.  Dom Rich came off the right edge for a big sack on a first down blitz and Mike Perish had two more incompletions before the Sycamores would be forced to punt the ball away again.

“It was my guaranteed last game”, said Cook.  ”We wanted to go out with a bang.  I will be praying tonight.  Anytime you have a winning record, it is a successful season, but we have a standard here to make the playoffs, so it will be bittersweet.”

The Penguins scored on their third consecutive possession when Hess again went deep, finding Williams for the second time.  The pitch and catch covered 43 yards and built the lead to 27-6.

“If we do make the playoffs, I don’t think we will lose again, we are absolutely playing our best right now”, said Rich.

Julius Childs accented the defensive effort with an interception, the second of the game for YSU.  Going into this game, the Penguins only had two interceptions for the whole season.

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Cook had a good game to close out his career as a Penguin.  The senior tailback rambled for 124 yards on 30 carries.  Cook entered the game with 3, 938 yards.  This effort put him over the 4,000 yard mark,  and he also eclipsed Adrian Brown for second on YSU’s all-time rushing list.

Besides breaking the record for passing touchdowns, Hess settled down, especially in the second half.  Hess engineered several first downs and kept the Penguins way ahead in the vaunted time of possession category, which they won, 36:36-23:24.  Hess was 20-28 for 248 yards and two touchdowns.

Bell didn’t have the Saturday he had last season against a Penguin defense that has been improving steadily all season.  The junior had 18 carries for 54 yards.

Aronde Stanton talked about the YSU defensive success against Bell.

“It shows how much we improved, it is a credit to the coaches.  There was a lot at stake today, and we came out and laid it all on the line.  It bothers me because we left a few games out there, hopefully the good Lord will take care of us.”

YSU Men Extinguish Red Flash, 75-60

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Riding the wave of a 2-0 road start, Youngstown State got to play a home game.  The Penguins responded in an adequate way – with a win.  YSU scored 42 points in the first fifteen minutes of the second half to pull away from Saint Francis and coast to a 75-60 win to push their record to 3-0 for the second season in a row.

“The key to the game was the first seven to eight minutes of the second half”, said Jerry Slocum.  ”We preached on the way home from Georgia that we have to keep our identity and know how to handle winning.  We need to stay grounded in our fundamentals and our team play.”

The Penguins and the Red Flash played a pretty even 18 minutes to start the game.  YSU trailed by four points with 7:52 left in the opening session, but were able to close the half strong enough to carry a 29-24 lead into the locker room.  Kendrick Perry paced Youngstown State with 11 points.

The Red Flash got nine points from Stephon Whyatt and another eight from Stephon Mosley, but no more than three points from any other player.  The Red Flash started the game doing a very good job on defense, but the Penguins adjusted to assert their skills.

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Senior guard Blake Allen (above) heated up in the second half.  Allen connected on a three with 15:01 to play that gave YSU a 42-30 advantage.  The next Saint Francis possession, Kamren Belin stole the ball and went coast-to-coast for the easy layup to push the Penguin lead to 14.  After a defensive stop, Allen connected for another three to give YSU their biggest lead of 17 points.

Allen talked about his regimen between practices.

“I get in the gym every chance I get”, said Allen.  ”I shot anywhere from 800-900 free throws in the last two days.”

The Penguins were the beneficiary of good half-court defense forcing the Red Flash into ten second half turnovers.  In fact, YSU scored 22 points off of Red Flash turnovers in the game.

Meanwhile, Perry kept consistently knocking down buckets for the Penguins.  KP had the whole array going as he was hitting twos, threes, free throws, and layups.  He would finish the game with 19 points, seven rebounds, and three assists.

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Perry and Allen spearheaded an outburst that made it 67-46 with 7:09 left to play in the contest.  Allen’s sixth three in eight tries and a pair of Perry charity tosses boosted the Guins to their largest lead.

Allen knocked down six threes on his way to 18 points and Damian Eargle played a good all-around game as he knocked in 12 points, blocked two shots and garnered five rebounds.

The Red Flash were lead by Whyatt who would finish the game with 18 points.

The Penguins head back to the road for three games in three days starting Monday at North Dakota State, then head back East to face James Madison on Tuesday, and conclude the swing Wednesday night at Duquesne.

“Our schedule is simply a gauntlet.  All three of those teams we play in three days are very good teams with high basketball IQ’s”, said Slocum.

 

Popo Salinas To Headline 24th Annual Thanksgiving Feast Boxing Show

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Jack Loew is putting on his 24th Annual Thanksgiving Feast boxing card.  This year, things are a little bit different.  The show was usually held the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving Day in the past, but was moved to a Saturday this year.

“As we all get older, we have children and grandchildren to spend time with around the holidays”, said Loew.  ”So this year we are having the show on a Saturday night, but we are keeping the Thanksgiving theme alive.”

Popo Salinas was originally scheduled to fight Romero Hernandez of Cleveland, but Hernandez has pulled out of the fight.  Loew, scrambling madly, has found a worthy opponent after spending his entire Thursday on the phone.

The new opponent will weigh in around 150 pounds, much heavier than Salinas, who fights at 132 pounds.  Christian Maynor, a two-time Golden Gloves champion has been named the new opponent, probably a harder foe for the fast-rising Salinas.

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The show will start at 7 pm and the doors of St. Lucy’s Hall in Campbell will open at 6 pm.  There are 15 bouts confirmed to take place on the card.

Loew will also corner members of his gym.  Vic Toney, Lavelle Hadley, Vince Hadley, and Chris Daniels will all get a chance to showcase their skills on the card.

Daniels is a 64-pounder from Hubbard, Ohio making his debut.

General Admission tickets are only $15 and ringside will sell for $25.