A proper send-off

Doug Gulasy

Greene, seniors help pave way for Flashes.

For much of the Kent State men’s basketball team’s Senior Night game against Miami, sophomore forward Justin Greene was the star of the show.

But with the game in jeopardy late in the second half, the Flashes’ senior class took over.

Greene had a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds, but the senior trio of Anthony Simpson, Chris Singletary and Frank Henry-Ala scored 21 second-half points to lead the Flashes (22-8, 12-3 Mid-American Conference) to a 66-58 win in front of 5,781 fans at the M.A.C. Center.

“You don’t want to see (these seniors) go,” Kent State coach Geno Ford said. “We’ve had a fun ride with them. You have to choke all that back and do your job. I thought there were times where we weren’t as sharp, but I was proud of those kids — I thought they really tried hard.”

The Flashes’ six seniors — Simpson, Singletary and Henry-Ala, along with Tyree Evans, Mike McKee and Brandon Parks — were honored before the game.

Adding to the festivities were the halftime ceremonies. NFL stars James Harrison and Antonio Gates were inducted into the Kent State Hall of Fame with six other former Kent State athletes, and Gates’ No. 44 basketball jersey was retired.

But Miami almost spoiled the show.

The RedHawks (12-17, 8-7 MAC) overcame a nine-point halftime deficit by opening the second half on a 15-6 run, tying the game at 41 with 14 minutes to play. The Flashes responded with an 8-0 run, holding Miami without a field goal for more than seven minutes, to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

“When I saw we had the Antonio jersey retiring (and) Hall of Fame day — you don’t invite (Miami coach) Charlie Coles (and his team),” Ford said. “That’s not what you do. I have a lot of other teams in mind that I would rather see. You always get a little uptight for games; I’ve been sick for 48 hours.”

Simpson played a key role in the 8-0 run. The 6-foot-8 forward pinned a Miami shot to the backboard for a block, assisted on a Henry-Ala layup and brought the home crowd to its feet with a tip dunk off a missed shot by junior guard Rodriquez Sherman.

After Miami cut the lead to four with 4:27 remaining, Simpson scored seven straight Kent State points, knocking down two jump shots and a 3-pointer to give the Flashes an insurmountable 59-50 lead with 2:19 left in the game.

“(I) don’t want to lose,” Simpson said. “(That’s) all I’ve been saying all year. We don’t lose, we go to the (NCAA) Tournament. That’s our goal.”

Earlier in the game, the RedHawks couldn’t stop Greene. The sophomore went 9-for-12 from the field, scoring all 18 of his points in the game’s first 28 minutes. His last basket gave the Flashes a 45-41 lead with 12:36 left.

“That guy may be the MVP of the entire league,” Coles said. “I mean, who’s better? That kid, I think he’s the secret to their team because he’s so efficient. Wow, he’s a good player.”

At the game’s final buzzer, Singletary dropped to the ground and kissed the Flashes’ logo at center court.

Later, a choked-up Singletary said he wouldn’t forget his time at Kent State.

“You guys have been here with me for four years; you guys have seen the bad, (and) you guys have seen the good,” Singletary said.

“Through it all, Kent State has stuck with me. It means a lot to me, and it means a lot to my family. It’s something I’ll never forget.

Whether I go play in the NBA or play overseas, these last four years will be something I’ll always cherish.”

Contact editor Doug Gulasy at [email protected].