Home for the last time

Matt Lofgren

Above the entrance to the M.A.C. Center hangs a banner with “Drive for 20” on it. For five seniors on the women’s basketball team, it’s a reminder of a goal – 20 wins.

“It’s real important to get to 20 wins; it’s been a part of tradition at Kent State for long time,” said senior guard Jamilah Humes. “And then it gives us a better chance at post season play.”

For Humes and four other seniors, Wednesday’s game will be their last at the M.A.C. Center in front of a home crowd. Along with her, Taisja Jones, Stephanie Gibson, Ellie Shields and Chenel Harris will all be taking their last bow versus Ohio University (7-19, 3-10 Mid-American Conference).

Jones, who was named last week’s Co-MAC East player of the week, has only been at Kent State for two years after transferring but fits right in with the rest of the girls.

“It’s going to be a really emotional game because for most of us, it’s the last home game,” Shields said. “It’s the last time we’re going to play on this court, and it’s going to be sad even though it’s something to be proud of; we stayed here the whole time.”

In their drive for 20, this class met their goal last year by posting a record of 20-11 but finished second in the MAC. With their strong determination, this Flashes team looks to use their senior leadership in the post season.

“I think it’s really rare to have five senior starters,” Shields said. “It means a lot on the floor to know you’re playing for each other.”

With their current record of 18-7 (9-4 MAC East), the Flashes have a tight hold on the number two slot in the East behind Bowling Green. The Flashes could take over the number one spot with some help and a victory in a crucial game on Saturday at Bowling Green, which will be televised on Sports Time Ohio.

The five seniors have been through a lot together. From a rough 9-21 season in 2007-08, to last year’s birth in the National Invite Tournament, this team has kept themselves confident through each other.

Facing the Bobcats for the final home game may look like a cake-walk to some, but none of the players are forgetting about the last game against the Bobcats.

“I know that all of our seniors are going to come out and play as hard as they can and protect this home court, especially because last game we only beat them by one,” Humes said.

The 55-54 win on Jan. 12 in Athens, Ohio, arrived right in the midst of what would become a five game MAC East winning streak for Kent State.

With only one game left, the seniors reflected on what they will miss most about the place they’ve called home for the past four years.

“It’s the last time playing in front of a home crowd and I really like getting our names called at the front because it gets you pumped for the game,” Jones said.

“For me, what I’ll remember most about the M.A.C. Center is when we played Akron here last year because Akron really came out strong and that was the best team they’ve had in a while,” Humes said. “It was a really good game for me because I had 33 points in a win versus our rival.”

Contact Matt Lofgren at [email protected].