Walker, Hall have tournament for the ages


Kent State senior forward Jimmy Hall and sophomore guard Jaylin Walker embrace after beating Akron 70-65 in the MAC Title Game at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on Saturday. Walker was named MAC Tournament Most Valuable Player.

Henry Palattella

The Kent State men’s basketball teams’ ride to the MAC Championship game wasn’t smooth.

First, they had to combat Marcus Keene’s three-point barrage in the play-in game that took place at the MAC Center on Monday. Then it was hack-a-thon against No. 3 Buffalo in the quarterfinals on Thursday where the two teams combined to commit 56 personal fouls.

Then came Friday, when the Flashes found themselves quickly down 10 to a hot No. 2 Ohio Bobcats team. But the team, like they hadn’t done for a good portion of the season, kept their heads, maintained their composure, and persevered.

Against Marcus Keene and Central Michigan, they ran the hot shooting hand of Jaylin Walker in the second-half to a victory, and a berth in the second round.

On Thursday in Cleveland they fought through the aforementioned foul trouble and used 24 points from senior Jimmy Hall to upend the Bulls and move onto the semifinals against Ohio.

The matchup against the Bobcats was a back-and-forth affair, with the Flashes’ eventually taking the lead for good on sophomore Jaylin Walker’s lay-up with four seconds left.

All this set the tone for the Flashes Saturday matchup against arch-rival Akron in the championship game with a berth in the NCAA Tournament on the line. T

The Zips and Flashes split the regular-season matchups, with each team winning on the others’ home-court. The Zips came in as the No. 1 seed riding tournament wins over Eastern Michigan and Ball State. The No. 6 seeded Flashes knew they would need to give their all to beat the Zips. And give their all they did.

The box score at halftime for the most part wasn’t kind to the Flashes. Hall and fellow senior Deon Edwin each had two fouls, and forward Adonis De La Rosa had three, which usually isn’t a recipe for success against Akron.

The Flashes, however, held a slim 27-24 lead at halftime, much in part again to Walker, who had 11 points on 5-9 shooting on the field, including the Flashes lone three-pointer.

Akron responded in the second half, as they spent the early portions of the half chipping away at the Flashes lead and then took the lead back when Josh Williams knocked down a three with 9:02 left.

The Flashes, as they had done many times before this tournament, weathered the storm and righted the ship. The Flashes fought off a late Jimond Ivey run and soon found themselves up 70-65 when the final buzzer sounded, which set off a wild celebration inside the M.A.C. Center.

Hall ran over and shared a hug with his mother. Edwin hugged everyone in sight, the game ball clutched in right arm. De La Rosa ran around in jubilation, hugging anyone who would let him.

Soon after, the team was organized around center court, where they were awarded the MAC Championship trophy as confetti fell in the background.

The ladders were then brought out for the net-cutting ceremony, during which it was announced that Walker and  Hall were both named to the All-tournament team. Walker won MVP of the tournament, which sent the remaining fans in Quicken Loans Arena into a frenzy.  

The victory almost guarantees that Hall’s #35 jersey will hang in the rafters of the MAC when all is said in done. The senior will leave Kent with more than 1,600 career points, and one MAC championship.

Walker, who is only a sophomore, still has two more years to solidify his place in Kent State lore.

Henry Palattella is the sports editor, contact him at [email protected]