Flashes first in MAC East after victory over Bobcats


Senior forward McKenna Stephens of the Kent State women’s basketball team shoots the ball during a game against Robert Morris University game at the M.A.C. Center on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016.

Henry Palattella

With three minutes left in the first quarter of their first-place battle against Ohio University on Saturday, Kent State women’s basketball coach Todd Starkey was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Seniors Larissa Lurken and Jordan Korinek — two of his team leaders and top contributors — had each picked up two early fouls, which meant he could either leave them in and risk having them get even deeper in foul trouble, or sub them out and test his luck with some different lineups.

Starkey elected to go with the latter, as he played 12 players in the first half, a half that the Flashes found themselves trailing 31-28 at the end of.

Starkey’s decision payed off in the long run, when he rode the Flashes’ (15-11, 9-5 Mid-American Conference) depth and defensive intensity to a 83-77 overtime victory over Ohio (18-7, 9-5 MAC) The win now puts the team in a tie with the Bobcats for first place in the MAC East.

The Flashes had their backs to the wall for most of the first half, due not only to Korinek and Lurken’s foul trouble, but the rest of the team’s as well.

Five Flashes in total committed two fouls in the first half, which led to the Flashes using patchwork lineups at times. The moves were something that Ohio took advantage of, as the Flashes committed 13 turnovers in the first half, which led to 10 Bobcats points.

Quiera Lampkins and Dominique Doseck led the Bobcats with nine points each in the first half, while senior McKenna Stephens led the Flashes with nine points.

Stephens finished with a double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds) and led the Flashes on defense when Korinek and Lurken had to sit early.

The Flashes were also led in the time by backup redshirt freshman point guard Megan Carter (career-high 14 points) and backup senior forward Chelsi Watson (six points, six rebounds), who each provided Starkey with stability off the bench.

“You don’t expect to be in that situation, but you know your personal at this point in the season,”  Starkey said. “You know what combinations work for you and who you can put in when. (You know) who gives you a better opportunity on the offensive side of the court, and you know who is … going to do a better job defensively.”

The Flashes cut the Ohio lead to 46-45 after three, but they also more importantly got Ohio post players Jasmine Weatherspoon and Hannah Boesinger to each commit their fourth foul in the quarter, which opened up the inside for the Flashes.

The back and forth fight continued into the fourth quarter, but the Flashes were able to take advantage of Ohio’s mistakes and found themselves up 64-58 with 1:12 left to play after a Korinek and-one.  

The Flashes weren’t able to stop the Bobcats from scoring, however, and found themselves holding a slim 71-69 lead with six seconds left, a lead that would then disengage when Ohio’s Kelly Karlis stole the Flashes inbounds pass and made a lay-up with two seconds left to tie the game up and send it into overtime.

The Bobcats took a 75-72 lead with 2:43 left in overtime, but the Flashes took the lead back after Larissa Lurken made two free-throws and a jumper. Lurken finished the game with 31 points after only scoring five in the first half.

The Flashes followed this up by forcing the Bobcats to commit three straight charges followed by a five second-violation, which helped them increase their lead to 81-75.

Two of those charges were forced by sophomore Alexa Golden. Golden — who started but didn’t score for the Flashes — finished the game with six rebounds, two assists and two blocks.

“We did a super job of loading to the ball and being in position and taking those charges” Starkey said. “(Those) three charges at the end of overtime won the game for us.”

The victory propelled the Flashes to first in the MAC East, and four in the conference overall. While the Flashes are tied for first record-wise with the Bobcats, they own the tiebreaker, which gives them first place.

“We still have more basketball left,” Starkey said. “We didn’t win a championship today; We just beat a really good team. There’s four games left.”

The Flashes will be back in action this Wednesday when they travel to Bowling Green State University to take on the Falcons. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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