Dramatic scramble ends with last-second Flashes victory

Joshua Hudson

Willoughby grabs loose ball, hits shot as time expires to defeat Broncos

Malika Willoughby celebrates with teammates after she made the winning shot against Western Michigan last night at the M.A.C. Center. Kent won 69-67.

Credit: Andrew popik

Kacie Vavrek fights her way to the basket yesterday at the M.A.C. Center through Western Michigan’s Carrie Moore.

Credit: Andrew popik

Bob Lindsay got exactly what he wanted when the ball ended up in Malika Willoughby’s hands for the game-winning shot.

Although it took an airball by Tiffany Kelly and a dropped rebound by Lindsay Shearer, the Kent State coach’s players accomplished his ultimate goal. Willoughby drained the game winner with no time left to lift Kent State past Western Michigan in Mid-American Conference play, 69-67, last night at the M.A.C. Center.

The play ended up exactly the way Lindsay drew it up. Well, sort of.

“I told Malika to dribble, penetrate and take the ball to the rim to see if we get fouled,” he said. “Kelly had a good shot and Shearer should have had the offensive rebound but fumbled it away. We caught a break at the end and the ball bounced the right way.”

Willoughby’s shot ended a dramatic series of events that saw the Flashes retake the lead, lose it again, then battle back to win the game at the final buzzer.

The Flashes (10-6, 3-2 MAC) took the lead off of Shearer’s 3-pointer with 33 seconds left. Western Michigan answered with a layup by Kelly Koerber to tie the game at 67 with 17 seconds remaining, which set up Willoughby’s last-second shot.

“Today I tried to come out and give my team some more help,” the junior point guard said. “Lindsay rolled the ball over to me, and I just threw it up.”

Kent State’s bench erupted in celebration as Willoughby closed out the dramatic final seconds of the contest. Shearer said the win should give the team more confidence because of the energy it played with.

The Flashes managed to squeak out the victory despite committing 12 turnovers and shooting just 40 percent from the field in the first half.

The Broncos (6-10, 3-2 MAC) were led by Carrie Moore’s 19 points. But she only scored five in the second half, thanks to the defense by Melissa DeGrate.

“She is a good player and I knew they were trying to get the ball to her,” DeGrate said. “So I just dug down deep and followed her wherever she went.”

Shearer led the Flashes with her fourth straight double-double, 21 points and 11 rebounds. DeGrate added 16 points while Willoughby chipped in 13.

“I thought we played as well as we were capable of playing in the latter stages of the game,” Lindsay said. “Both teams were struggling to get the win, and luckily the ball bounced our way this time.”

The Kent State coach moved closer to the 300-win plateau with his 297th victory.

The Flashes hope to carry the momentum of their second straight victory into Eastern Michigan on Saturday.

“This win was big for us especially being short on players and maybe not playing to the best of our ability,” Shearer said. “The league is wide open now and two wins in a row is big for us.”

Contact women’s basketball reporter Joshua Hudson at [email protected].