Comaraderie off the court turning into success on it

Doug Gulasy

Playing with just seven players has presented many problems for the Kent State women’s basketball team.

Getting along hasn’t been one of those problems, though. On and off the court, the players get along.

“We talk about everything, (and) we hang out,” sophomore guard Rachel Bennett said. “When we’re off the court, I’m either calling one of them or something just to hang out. We’re real close.”

What was a 12-player roster in August has been whittled down to seven healthy players. That total includes three freshmen starters, a walk-on player, a junior college transfer and two returning players from last year’s team.

So how have the Flashes (7-16, 4-7 Mid-American Conference) become so close?

“Our team has been through a lot this season as far as injuries (and) people leaving,” freshman forward Chenel Harris said. “When you have such an eventful year like this, you need to come together if you want to win. I think that’s what we did.”

The players’ camaraderie off the court is beginning to translate into winning results on the court. In the Flashes’ last three games, they have a victory and two overtime losses.

In both overtime losses, the team had late leads before ultimately running out of energy near the end of regulation and in overtime.

That wasn’t the case Saturday in a 69-54 victory over Ball State. The Flashes trailed 23-21 at half-time but grabbed the lead early in the second half and ran awaywith the win.

“Compared to our last games, we always got a lead and then we always let up,” freshman guard Stephanie Gibson said. “We needed to stay strong on the lead (against Ball State) because we … don’t have that many numbers. We know that once we’ve got a lead, we’ve got to keep it.”

Harris had 17 points and 13 rebounds Saturday. When Bennett saw that statistic after the game, she made sure to high-five her teammate for the achievement.

The Flashes face a difficult test tonight, as they play at Bowling Green (19-6, 8-3 MAC) at 7 p.m. The Falcons are currently tied with Miami’s RedHawks for the MAC East lead and won the last three MAC championships.

When the two teams met earlier this season at the M.A.C. Center, the Falcons won 90-64.

Although the Flashes face long odds for winning the MAC Championship this season, their recent results show they are making strides. Junior forward Anna Kowalska, the team’s leading scorer, could also return before the end of this season.

Also, the Flashes have no seniors, meaning this team and group of friends will remain intact for next season.

“We just said, ‘We need to keep a tight-knit bunch so that next year we can come out, stay close and win,'” Harris said.

Contact sports reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected].