By Justin Grones (@JustinGrones)
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - In front of 3,388 strong, the Green Bay women's basketball team came out on top in a battle of the league's first- and second-place teams with a 60-46 win against Youngstown State. With the win, the Phoenix improves to 21-2 overall and 11-0 in the Horizon League with a three-game lead over Youngstown State, which fell to 17-6 and 7-3 in conference play.
"Youngstown State is really good, it's obvious," head coach Kevin Borseth said. "They take it to the hole, they shoot really well and they play a very physical style of defense-very physical."
For the second straight game, senior Adrian Ritchie (De Pere, Wis.) opened the game with a three, giving Green Bay the 3-0 lead less than a minute in. It was the first of seven threes in the first five minutes of the game.
Youngstown State's Liz Hornberger hit the first of five straight three's in the game to cut Green Bay's lead to 5-3, but after the teams finished exchanging triples Green Bay held an 11-9 lead with 15:39 remaining in the half.
The Phoenix had its lead trimmed to 11-10 off a Shar'Rae Davis free throw, but the home team sparked a 9-0 run with a three from Lydia Bauer (Lake Zurich, Ill.). Bauer hit three three's in the game, finishing with nine points.
Leading 20-10 with 12:50 remaining in the half, Green Bay was held scoreless for nearly five and a half minutes while the Penguins took the lead at 21-20 with 7:51 remaining. A flashy dish inside from Megan Lukan (Barrie, Ontario) to Stephanie Sension (Hopkins, Minn.) stopped the run and put the Phoenix back on top 22-21 just seconds later. It was just one of a career-high nine assists on the day for Lukan.
Green Bay took a 30-25 lead into the locker room, marking the second time in two meetings this season the team led Youngstown State by five at the break.
"The first half was tough, we had a lot of our starters on the bench in foul trouble but we had other people step up and help," Borseth said.
Recent 1,000-point club member Sarah Eichler (Grafton, Wis.) scored just two points in five minutes in the first half, but opened the final frame with a three-the first of 12 points she would score in the half to finish with a team-high 15.
Ritchie extended the lead to 38-27 with a deep shot from downtown at the 17:44 mark, but Youngstown State's Brandi Brown responded with a three of her own to cut the lead back to single digits. On Green Bay's next possession, Bauer hit the third three in a 30-second stretch, putting the lead back at 11.
Eichler gave the Phoenix its largest lead of the day with a layup at the 6:44 mark, putting the score at 57-39. The Penguins scored six unanswered points following the layup, but a jumper from Eichler and a free throw from Sam Zastrow (Algoma, Wis.) was enough to seal the 60-46 win and a three-game lead in the Horizon League standings.
"We still have to play-every game we're going to get everyone's best," Borseth said. "We still have three games on the road, so every game will be a battle."
Eichler led Green Bay with 15 points on 7-10 shooting, while Ritchie added 11 points, nine rebounds and tied her career high with three blocked shots. Sension and Bauer each had nine points, while Breannah Ranger (Skokie, Ill.) had six points and tied her career high with 11 rebounds.
Brown led Youngstown State with a game-high 20 points, but grabbed just six rebounds after entering the contest averaging nearly 12 boards per game. Hornberger had 11 points, while Davis rounded out the Penguins in double-figure scoring with 10 points.
NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE: The Phoenix will have a six-day break before returning to action against Valparaiso in the annual PinkZone game on Saturday, Feb. 23. The team will wear special pink and grey uniforms to raise breast cancer awareness. To date, more than $77,000 has been raised for the Cancer TEAM at Bellin Health. Green Bay defeated the Crusaders 78-55 on the road in a Jan. 26 matchup.
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