Flashes edge Ohio 81-77 to claim MAC East championship, tournament bye

Starkey bath 2

Coach Todd Starkey gets a championship shower from his team after the Flashes’ 81-77 win over Ohio Wednesday. (Photo by David Dermer for Kent State sports.)

All freshman Katie Shumate wanted to do this season, she said, was to fit into the Kent State women’s basketball team.

“Going in, I was just trying to get accustomed to everything and working with the team,” she said. “Championships weren’t really in my mind.

“But it’s great. It’s amazing.

Wednesday Shumate joined her teammates and coaches in cutting down the net after the Flashes won the MAC East title by edging Ohio 81-77 at the M.A.C. Center.

The win also clinches a bye to the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament next Wednesday and the No. 3 seed. (The Flashes could tie for the MAC East and the 3 seed, but best I can tell, they own the tie-breaker in both cases.)

All Shumate has done this season is place second on the team in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocked shots. She’s third in assists and leads the Flashes in shooting percentage and 3-point percentage.

Against Ohio, Shumate led the team with 20 points and eight rebounds. She blocked two shots, had two assists and two steals and made 13 of 15 free throws.

Shumate drew 11 fouls from Ohio players, including the defensive play of the game.

Ohio guard Erica Johnson had scored 36 points on the Flashes to that point. “We had no answer to her,” coach Todd Starkey said.

But with 5.9 seconds left, Shumate had the answer. Kent State led 78-77. Johnson was trying to back into Shumate to the right of the basket. She turned and drove. Shumate held her ground.

Offensive foul.

Johnson slammed the ball to the floor in frustration. It bounced higher than the basket.

Technical foul.

Asiah Dingle made both technical foul shots, and Shumate added another two seconds later to give the Flashes the win.

“Katie has a lot of poise for a freshman,” Starkey said. “She was getting beat off the dribble pretty good by Johnson. But when it mattered most, when she really need to square her shoulders and play great position defense, she did it.”

Shumate was modest.

“The whole game she’d been coming right at us,” she said. “So at the end, it was really big that I didn’t foul her. I just made the right play.

And Shumate blocks shots, too.

The foul shot difference

When Kent State lost 63-57 at Ohio in February, the Flashes shot just eight free throws and made just two. Ohio was 16 of 21.

Wednesday they were 28 of 35 and outscored the Bobcats by nine at the line.

“We’ve been missing free throws for the month of February,” Starkey said. “Hopefully we’ve got that behind us now in March, when it matters most.”

Shumate on the free throws:

“When it came down to it at the end of the game, the game was on the line, and we were on the line, and that’s how we want it.”

Senior Megan Carter on the free throws: “They were putting us on the line. I’m just glad we made our free throws. We’ve been practicing free throws — um — for quite some time now in practice. So it’s coming to pass now.”

Kent State made only one-of-10 shots in the fourth quarter. But it made 16-of-22 free throws.

Bookend championships for the seniors

Carter cuts down neetSenior Megan Carter makes the first cut on the net. (Photo by David Dermer for KSU women’s basketball.)

Carter and fellow senior Ali Poole played for the team that won the MAC East title their freshman year. They were the first two to climb the ladder to cut down the net, Poole doing it a little gingerly with the knee injury that ended her season in January.

“For Megan and Ali,” Starkey said, “to get one on the way in and one on the way out is an exciting thing.”

The emotion was clear on Carter’s face as she talked to reporters after the game.

I’m so happy,” she said. “I’m so happy. I’m so proud of this team. A lot of people thought we weren’t going to make this run. We didn’t care what anybody else thought. We played Kent State basketball.”

Sydney Brinlee, the third senior, joined the team as a junior college transfer. She followed Carter and Poole with the scissors at the net.

The go-ahead free throws

Ohio took its first lead of the second half on a 3-point shot by Carilyn Kroll with 13 seconds to go. Kent called time out and advanced the ball to the front court, where Dingle drew a foul on a drive from the right of the basket. She made both foul shots.

Dingle took only two shots all game, lowest in her two years in Kent. She made one. She also made seven-of-eight free throws, five in the last quarter.

The scorers

Three other Flashes joined Shumate in double figures.

Carter had 14 points on six-of-11 shooting.

Hannah Young had 11, including three 3-point baskets in the first quarter. The third was at the buzzer and gave Kent State a 26-23 lead.

Nila Blackford also had 11 points and seven rebounds in her most balanced game since returning from a concussion. In her first two games back, she made three-of-21 shots. Wednesday she was four of seven.

“She’s still coming back,” Starkey said. “Her timing is still off a little bit, but she had some big rebounds and good defensive stops.”

On to Buffalo, on to Cleveland

The Flashes finish the regular season Saturday at Buffalo, which has won four games in a row after losing six in a row. A Starkey team has never won a Buffalo; it’s the only East Division school where that’s true.

“We’ve still got basketball to play,” Starkey said. “I told them championships are hard to come by in any form, especially at this level. So that’s why we’re going to celebrate it because they earned it.

“I’m really excited about what we’ve been able to do so far, but I want to make sure that we get refocused quickly because we’re going to a really tough place to play on Saturday.”

Win or lose at Buffalo, the Flashes will play in Cleveland next Wednesday. Carter has played there four years but never won a game.

“This is the year,” she said. “We’re going to win one, and we’re going to win another and then a championship and a bid to the NCAA tournament. So I’m just so happy. I’m so proud of this team, I can’t wait to get to the tournament.”

Box score

Notes

  • The win was Kent State’s fourth in a row and sixth in its last seven games. Ohio has lost four in a row for the first time since 2013-14.
  • Kent State blocked a season-high 10 shots as Lindsey Thall blocked five for the second time this year. She leads the MAC in blocks for the second-straight season. Earlier this season she blocked seven against Eastern Michigan and blocked four in three other games. Thall also scored seven points and had two assists Wednesday.
  • Mariah Modkins started her 11th straight game at point guard, played 20 minutes and hit two-of-three 3-pointers. She also had four rebounds and a steal.
  • Clare Kelly played 20 minutes off the bench and led the team in assists with three. She also hit a 3-point basket.
  • Ohio outscored Kent State off of turnovers 19-13, but KSU scored 15 on fast breaks to four for Ohio. Rebounding was even at 39.
  • Attendance was 1,637. Season average for the Flashes was 1,830. I think that’s a record. It certainly is in the 32 years I’ve been following the team. Records before 1980 are sketchy.

More photos and videos

Video highlight reel is here. The charge Shumate drew last the end of the game is late in the video. It’s worth seeing.

Lots of great pictures are on photographer David Dermer’s Twitter feed.

And more photos and video clips are on the team Twitter feed.

Other MAC scores

League leaders Central Michigan and Ball State both lost but still hold the top two seeds for the tournament.

  • Buffalo (8-9, 17-11) 76, Akron (7-10, 14-14) 61 at Akron.
  • Western Michigan (10-7, 17-11) 53, Eastern Michigan (9-8, 14-14) 49 at Eastern.
  • Toledo (7-10, 12-16) 76, Central Michigan (16-2, 22-6) 67 at Toledo.
  • Northern Illinois (6-11, 10-18) 70, Ball State (12-5, 20-9) 62 at Northern.
  • Bowling Green (3-14, 10-19) 82, Miami (4-13, 11-18) 69 at Miami.

MAC standings.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Flashes and Buffalo, both on 4-game winning streaks, end regular season Saturday in Buffalo | wbbFlashes

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