Barber-Smith, Golden power Flashes to season sweep of Akron

Mariah Modkins drives past Akron’s Shayna Harmon during the first half of Kent State’s game against the Zips on March 6. Kent State won, 65-55. 

Gina Butkovich

Wednesday marked the first time that the Kent State women’s basketball team had played in overtime this season.

It also marked their first overtime win this season.

The Flashes outscored Akron 14-4 over the extra frame to beat the Zips 65-55. 

“I said ‘listen, we get to play five more minutes of basketball so let’s go out there and do our job and see what we come up with,’” coach Todd Starkey said. “I thought they did a really good job of staying focused and digging in and being gritty on defense.”

The win put the finishing touches on Kent State’s regular season sweep of Akron. The Flashes previously beat the Zips 73-58 on Feb. 2. 

“I like beating Akron, it’s a rivalry game,” Starkey said. “All that intensity. It was a possession game all the way through. You throw records out the window with rivalry games, and that’s the case here.”

In the final seconds of regulation, Kent State junior guard Megan Carter missed a jump shot which send the game into overtime tied at 51. The Zips ended the game on a 6-0 run that knotted the score.

The Flashes scored the first 11 points in overtime, with Akron’s first points coming with less than a minute left on the clock. Senior center Merissa Barber-Smith and lead the overtime charge with three rebounds and three points.

“She turned the game for us,” Starkey said. “She cleaned up all the loose change. She scored in the post a little bit for us, which we needed. Our defense, in overtime was phenomenal.”

Barber-Smith finished with a career-high 18 rebounds in 33 minutes.

“I feel great,” Barber-Smith said. “I’m glad to have my team here as well. It’s because of their spirit and getting me up and ready that I got those rebounds. They gave me the energy.”

Barber-Smith teamed up with fellow senior Alexa Golden to keep the Flashes in a game where they had trouble scoring for long stretches. Golden, who played all 45 minutes, had eight rebounds and three steals.

“Our two seniors were huge,” Starkey said. “(Golden) played 45 minutes chasing Megan Sefcik around the court, and came up with two really big defensive rebounds at the end.”

Sefcik, Akron’s senior guard who came in averaging 17 points and four rebounds, was held to 14 points and one rebound. Sefick finished the season 1-for-12 on 3-pointers in her two games against Kent State. 

“She’s a really talented player,” Golden said. “The game plan was to chase her around, make her take tough shots. We knew that we weren’t going to stop her from scoring, but as long as she had to work for every shot that she took, that was the plan.”

Sefcik and junior forward Caitlin Vari (12 points) were the only two Zips to finish in double-figures. Kent State had four players in double-figures, with Carter leading the way with 19 points.

“Everybody that played contributed in some way to this win,” Starkey said. “Offensively, we ran actions to score, and then executed.”

The Flashes will face Buffalo in the M.A.C. Center on Saturday at 2 p.m in their regular season finale. 

“I think we are having a really good year,” Starkey said of Buffalo. “I think some really good things are happening for us, and I think the team feels that.”

 Gina Butkovich is a sports reporter. Contact her at [email protected].