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Kent State Powers Past Buffalo 78-60 to Punch Ticket to 'The Dance'

Cleveland, OH- Patience is a virtue, but when that patience pays off, the journey is more than worth it. That was the sentiment of Head Coach Todd Starkey following the first MAC Championship in 22 years for the Kent State Women's Basketball team. Starkey, who has led the Lady Flashes since 2016 has only lived part of that drought, but reaching the mountain top of MAC basketball has remained out of reach, regardless of their regular season standing.

In Starkey's 8 years with the Flashes, only once have they finished below .500. In his first year and the COVID shortened (no post season tournaments) season, the Golden Flashes took the MAC East regular season crown. There have been 4 trips to the Women's NIT, but the 'Big Dance' (and a MAC Tournament Championship) has been the peak that to this point has been unattainable.

All of that changed when the Golden Flashes squared off with the Buffalo Bulls in the 2024 MAC Women's Championship. But much like the 8 year ride Coach Starkey and his Lady Flashes have been on, there were some obstacles they had to overcome to reach the pinnacle.

Standing in their way was a Buffalo team coming off a thrilling OT victory in the semifinals a day prior. Both teams are led by 5th year senior guards, Katie Shumate for the Flashes and Chellia Watson for the Bulls. Whomever led their team to glory would not only hoist the Tournament Championship trophy but the MVP award as well.

It was a back and forth affair through the first quarter, with Kent State holding a 20-15 advantage after 10 minutes of action. Predictably, it was Shumate and Watson leading the way for both teams with 7 and 5 points respectively. Alexis Davis also chipped in 5 for the Bulls, but the balanced offensive attack of the Flashes was good enough to build the 5 point advantage.

The second quarter belonged to the Bulls, as they went on a 9 point run during the frame. At the half, they held a 34-30 lead thanks to a late 3 pointer from Watson. The late triple gave Watson 13 for the half. Shumate was the high point scorer for the Flashes with 8.

The Flashes came out of halftime with a vengeance. They opened the quarter on a 11-3 run before Buffalo took a timeout with 7:16 remaining to try and stop the bleeding. It was Sophomore Guard Dionna Gray leading the charge for Starkey's squad, nailing two big triples and Junior Jenna Batsch succeeding on an 'And 1'. While the time out slowed the Flashes, it wasn't enough to halt the Flashes, as they built a 12 point lead by the end of the quarter to head to the final 10 minutes of action. Shumate was up to 16 points, while Watson had 15.

Buffalo tried to make their way back, getting it as close as 66-58 with 4:19 left in regulation before the Flashes ultimately ended up pulling away over the next couple minutes of action. At the final horn, it was the Flashes emerging victorious, with a 78-60 win.

The Golden Flashes now await the bracket release to see who their next opponent is, but for the time being, it's time to bask in the glory of reaching the MAC mountain top.


Kent State

Points: Katie Shumate (18)

Rebounds: Bridget Dunn (12)

Assists: Jenna Batsch & Dionna Gray (4)


Points: Chellia Watson (21)

Rebounds: Kirsten Lewis-Williams (9)

Assists: Watson (5)

MAC All-Tournament Team

Quinesha Lockett - Toledo

Chellia Watson - Buffalo

Rana Elhusseini - Buffalo

Bridget Dunn - Kent State

Katie Shumate - Kent State (MVP)


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