Women’s basketball lives to see another day

Doug Gulasy

Things looking up from last season for Flashes

Perhaps it wasn’t the win the Kent State women’s basketball team was expecting at halftime, but it was a win nonetheless.

The Flashes (9-20) had to survive a second-half comeback by Northern Illinois to defeat the Huskies 75-67 yesterday in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena.

“The thing that I liked best about this game was that, with a young team and an undermanned team and all of that, we didn’t fold up when they went ahead of us,” Kent State coach Bob Lindsay said.

“We made plays,” he said. “They weren’t the prettiest ones at times, but we made plays to stay in it and to win it. I’m proud of these kids for that part of it because they didn’t quit.”

Kent State led 41-25 at halftime after the Flashes were able to get the ball inside to junior center Anna Kowalska and freshman forward Ellie Shields. Kowalska scored nine points in the first half, and Shields had eight.

But in the second half, Northern Illinois shut down the Flashes’ inside game by using double-teams to take away passes inside.

“They doubled up on us on the low block in the second half and tried to double us pretty much that whole half,” Lindsay said. “It was taking away some of our opportunities, which probably would have opened it up a little bit more for somebody else if we could find the open person, which we did at times.”

When the Flashes tried to pass inside despite the double teams, the Huskies swatted away the passes to force turnovers.

At the same time, Northern Illinois’ 3-point shooting game opened up. They took a 55-54 lead with 7:39 remaining on a 3-pointer by Shari’ Welton. Though the Flashes retook the lead, the Huskies kept the game close and tied it up again at 60 with 4:54 left.

But the Flashes’ junior guard Asheley Harkins hit a 3 pointer from the left corner less than a minute later to give Kent State a lead it would not lose the rest of the way.

“Shooters keep shooting,” Harkins said. “I really wasn’t shooting it too good today, but you’ve got to keep shooting.”

Freshmen Chenel Harris and Stephanie Gibson, playing in their first MAC Tournament game, scored a combined nine points in the final four minutes to help Kent State keep its lead.

Harris led four Flashes in double figures with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Harkins scored 13 points, and Gibson and Shields each added 12.

“I wasn’t really nervous because I knew we had some leadership on our team — Asheley and Rachel Bennett — to help keep all freshmen sane in the locker room,” Harris said. “Going into (the game) I was excited and happy, just ready to go out and play.”

The victory enables them to move on to play Bowling Green tomorrow at 8 p.m. in the tournament quarterfinals.

Contact sports reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected].