Peoples delivers valiant effort in final KSU game

Joe Gartrell

She played through obvious pain and fatigue for nearly 40 minutes. But at the end, Kristin Peoples had played her last collegiate basketball game.

“I was running on pure emotion out there,” she said about the final minutes of the game, which Kent State lost, 72-68, to Northern Illinois in the Mid-American Conference Tournament yesterday afternoon.

Peoples is a slender 5-foot-7, and she took a battering.

Crash – she fell to the floor after she stopped and shot with about eight minutes to go in the first half. The shot missed. Peoples popped up immediately. No, “ouch,” just back on defense.

After nearly 15 minutes and 12 points – she finished with 28 – Peoples was finally given a break from the action. That break lasted long enough for about one paper cup’s worth of Gatorade. She was sent back in, replacing her replacement.

Peoples was right back at it. “Sam, we cannot afford turnovers,” she shouted to teammate Samantha Scull after Scull was called for a travel with just over four minutes left in the half.

“Short,” she yelled near the end of the first half when her 3-pointer didn’t have enough on it. And how could she not have enough on it? She had played almost the entire first half.

Peoples started to appear tired during the early minutes of the second half. She drew her second foul – a blocking foul that she may have been able to avoid on fresh legs.

Peoples scored on a fancy layup to pull Kent State within five, 56-51, with just over nine minutes left. Soon after, she scored again, 56-53. Her shots were sandwiched by hard falls to the floor. After the first fall, she got up holding her head, but she said it didn’t bother her.

“I really didn’t feel it at all there in the second half,” Peoples said. “I was just worried about making a comeback”

Near the five-minute mark, Peoples bent at the waist and flicked something from her shoe, but it was probably an effort to hide the look on her face, the one that means the lungs are burning. She took the in-bounds pass and air-balled a 3 from the corner.

Coach Bob Lindsay pulled her shortly after, but again, the time on the bench was minimal – probably no more than 20 seconds of the game clock ticked off.

Down one point, 61-60, with just under two minutes, Peoples received an outlet pass and ran down the floor, her four teammates behind her, all five Huskies between her and the basket. She drove hard left and lost the ball out of bounds. She looked tired.

“This is my last game for the rest of my college career,” she said. “So I wasn’t thinking about fatigue.”

And as her final game neared the end, she no longer appeared fatigued. She swished a long 3 and scored on tough layup with under 20 seconds to go. But Kent State couldn’t cut the lead. With her team down four, she had the ball at mid-court as the time expired. She heaved the ball toward the hoop, her last act as a college basketball player.

Contact sports editor Joe Gartrell at [email protected].