Fisher hits winning shot in MAC semifinals

Doug Gulasy

Kent State takes on archrival Akron tonight

Daniel Doherty Daily Kent Stater With 3.5 seconds left, junior guard Al Fisher puts up a shot to win the game. Behind Fisher’s 11 points, Kent State took the win in the MAC Championship semifinal round over Miami 49-47.

Credit: DKS Editors

Junior guard Jordan Mincy embraces junior guard Al Fisher after the Flashes’ beat the Miami Redhawks 49-47 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland yesterday.

Credit: BRIAN MARKS

Al Fisher is beginning to make a living as someone who makes game-winning shots.

The junior guard hit a floater in the lane with 3.5 seconds left to give the Kent State men’s basketball team (27-6) a 49-47 victory Friday over Miami in the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena.

“It makes it easier when your coach and your teammates have a lot of trust in you and know that you can do it,” Fisher said. “It makes it a lot easier. We were just trying to get a quick shot up or find somebody for an easier shot.”

Fisher, the MAC Player of the Year, has now hit two game-winning shots in a week. He made a 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left in the Flashes’ 61-58 victory Sunday night at Akron.

“Right before he shot it (tonight), I told my assistant coaches, ‘I’m almost willing to bet my life on it: Al is going to win this game for us,'” junior guard Jordan Mincy said.

“As soon as he did, I grabbed both of them, (assistant) coach (Arnette) Jordan and (assistant) coach (Mike) Brown. I was like: ‘I told you he was going to do it. I told you.'”

But the game wasn’t over yet. Miami had the ball and 3.5 seconds to send the game to overtime or win it outright.

The RedHawks began needing to go the length of the court to score. A pass to junior Michael Bramos got knocked out of bounds by Fisher with 3.3 seconds left.

Then Miami inbounded at about half court. This time the RedHawks tried to go to senior Tim Pollitz, but Fisher jumped in front of him and again knocked the ball out of bounds.

With the ball on the sideline closer to the basket, the RedHawks got the ball to Pollitz cleanly, but his shot hit the front of the rim to end the game.

“It was three times, but our guys, they hung tough,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “It was funny — the first game of the year (at Detroit) we’re in that same situation and couldn’t find a way. We gave up a (game-winning) 3-point shot. This team’s come a long way.”

The game was what most people anticipated it would be: a physical contest between two physical teams.

Bodies flew everywhere as players collided inside. Nearly every shot by either team was contested. The Flashes scored a season-low 49 points.

“(The game was) exactly what we expected it would be,” Christian said. “Miami’s a great basketball team, they play extremely well in this tournament (and) we knew it. It was just a grind-out game. It was a game that we just had to find a way to win, and I was proud of our kids for doing just that.”

The largest lead held in tonight’s game was a four-point advantage for the Flashes with just under seven minutes left in the first half. Overall, there were 12 ties and nine lead changes.

In the final minutes, the teams traded scores. Sophomore Chris Singletary gave the Flashes a 47-45 lead with 1:02 left, but Miami’s Kenny Hayes made a driving layup to tie the score with 34.8 remaining.

That paved the way for Fisher, who dribbled the ball near midcourt, making his move only when the clock began to run down. He got into the lane and released a floater that didn’t even touch the rim as it went in.

“The ideal there is to go with five seconds to go, so if you miss the shot there’s no rebounds at all,” Christian said. “I just thought the guy was kind of pressing up on (Fisher), so he went with about seven (seconds), which is a little too soon. But that’s what it is; he just made a heck of a play.”

The Flashes will go for their fifth MAC championship in the past 10 years with a game tonight at 7 against a familiar opponent: archrival Akron. The Zips defeated Western Michigan 73-62 in the other semifinal.

“We know it’s going to be a hard-fought game; they’re our rival,” Mincy said. “We’re excited for the game; we’re pumped up.”

Contact sports reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected]