Robert Morris loses a heartbreaker, falls to Youngstown State for the second time

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Photo by Tyler Gallo

Esther Castedo drives past Chelsea Olson of YSU.

By Kevin Plowcha, Podcast GM

MOON TOWNSHIP– The Robert Morris Colonials (7-9, 5-6 Horizon) took on the Youngstown State Penguins (16-2, 10-1) Thursday night at the UPMC Events Center. RMU was looking to build on their 50-44 win over UIC on Sunday.

Ashya Klopfenstein led off the night’s scoring with a layup to give RMU a 2-0 lead. After that, the rest of the first quarter was a defensive battle, which catered towards RMU’s strengths.

RMU’s lockdown defense was giving Youngstown State fits in the first quarter, as they shot a measly 3-13 from the floor through the first 10 minutes. On the other hand, the Colonials were getting some shots to fall.

Esther Castedo had six points in the first quarter, Sol Castro had four rebounds, and RMU led YSU five after the end of the first quarter.

To start the second quarter, YSU made a layup to cut the deficit to three, but RMU responded in a big way. A 9-0 run by RMU put the Colonials up by 12 halfway through the second quarter.

Six different Colonials had scored at that point, and RMU extended their lead to 23-12 with 4:44 left in the quarter thanks to a couple of Natalie Villaflor free throws.

Villaflor finished with 12 points off the bench. Interim head coach Scott Schneider spoke of her performance after the game.

“Natalie has done what we’ve believed she can do for a long time,” Schneider said. “She is a tough, gritty, hard-nosed player and when she puts her mind to it, she can do amazing things.”

The YSU offense started to find its footing, however. Some lapses on defense allowed YSU some easy layups to get back into it, and with 2:22 left in the second quarter, the eleven-point lead had shrunk to just three.

Youngstown State’s Megan Callahan, who played for four seasons at RMU before transferring to YSU before the season, hit a three-pointer with twelve seconds left to tie the game at 25 all.

When the first half was all said and done, Natalie Villaflor led all RMU scorers with eight points, while Lilly Ritz led all scorers with twelve points for YSU, shooting 6 for 9 from the floor.

The first points of the second half came from YSU’s Malia Magestro, who banked in a three-pointer to give the Penguins a three-point lead. Youngstown State caught fire from deep in the third quarter, making three of their first four, and had a 36-32 lead four minutes through the quarter. Magestro accounted for nine of YSU’s eleven points during that stretch.

RMU wasn’t going to give up, though. A four-minute scoring drought from both teams was ended by Ashya Klopfenstein, who had four quick points to tie the game at 36.

Schneider spoke about Klopfenstein, who also finished with 12 points, and the team’s performance after the game.

“We’ve been talking with our players a lot about playing free. I’ve really started to trust in them to do that. A big theme for this game was that I trust them,” Schneider said. “Ashya came to play today. She was someone who really stepped up in the absence of Phoenix.”

A three-pointer by Lexi Wagner of YSU was answered by Esther Castedo, who drained one with 24 seconds left.

After thirty minutes of play, RMU and Youngstown State were all tied at 39.

The fourth quarter started the same as the third, with Youngstown State yet again catching fire from three-point range. The Penguins made two quick threes to take the game from a tie to a 6-point RMU deficit in just a minute and a half.

One thing about this RMU team is that they never give up. A 5-0 RMU run, including a Simone Morris and one, cut the deficit to one.

RMU tied the game at 45 with a Sol Castro free throw with 5:43 left in the game.
Both teams then went back-and-forth for the next minute and a half. RMU took a 51-49 lead with 4:26 left on an Esther Castedo “and one”, which got the UPMC Events Center rocking.

Youngstown State scored four straight after that, taking a 53-51 lead with 3:29 left. RMU tied the game back up at 53 with 3:07 left thanks to two more free throws from Klopfenstein.

A three-pointer by YSU was answered by a Klopfenstein layup to make it a 56-55 game, with RMU trailing by one. After two trips to the free-throw line for Natalie Villaflor, RMU had a 57-56 lead with 1:07 left.

RMU ran as much time off the clock as they could, but YSU still got a chance to win it. Megan Callahan made a three-pointer with 0.9 seconds left to give Youngstown State a 59-57 lead, and RMU couldn’t make a shot at the buzzer.

The last person Schneider talked about was Callahan, talking about her in general and her final shot that gave YSU the win.

“Callahan is a great energy/culture player,” Schneider said, “She plays with a lot of passion and heart.”

Regarding her game-winner, Schneider broke down the play.

“There was a breakdown defensively. She took the shot and she hit it, and it’s definitely a special moment for her.”

The Colonials lost another close one, this time 59-57. RMU falls to 7-9 overall and 5-6 in Horizon League play.

Their next game is Saturday at 1:00 p.m. when they take on YSU again, this time on the road.