CLEVELAND — Kent State junior Al Fisher had an un-MVP-like night.
Until the final few seconds when the game was on the line.
Fisher, who was named the Mid-American Conference MVP last week, made a driving pullup floater with 3.5 seconds left to give the top-seeded Golden Flashes a 49-47 victory over No. 5-seeded Miami of Ohio in Friday night’s second semifinal of the MAC Tournament.
Akron, the No. 3 seed, downed No. 2-seeded Western Michigan 73-62 in the first semifinal at Quicken Loans Arena. The Zips will face the Flashes tonight at 7 in the championship game.
“I was just trying to get up a quick shot or trying to pass to someone else for an easier shot,” said Fisher, who went scoreless in the first half yet finished with a team-high 11 points.
“When everyone believes in you, it takes a lot of the pressure off. It makes it a lot easier when you are the one taking the game-winning shot.”
The RedHawks, who won the MAC Tournament last season, had a chance to tie at the buzzer, as they used a pair of inbounds passes to move the ball down the court and then had senior post Tim Pollitz get off a shot from inside the paint that hit the front of the rim and fell forward.
“It was a baseline screen and screen,” said Pollitz, who finished with a game-high 15 points. “I looked to kick it back out to (guard Michael) Bramos, but he was guarded pretty tight. So I made my move … and you know what happened.”
Not that Pollitz, last season’s tournament MVP, had anything to be ashamed of. It was the captain’s work under the basket that kept Miami in the game — a game that stayed about as tight as a basketball game can. The Flashes’ largest lead was four points, the RedHawks’ largest was three and the game included 12 ties and nine lead changes.
“It was a grind-out game,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “It was the kind of game that we had to go out there and find a way to win … and I’m real proud of the kids for being able to do that.”
The first half was highlighted by Miami’s brutal inside game — the RedHawks outscored the Flashes 22-12 in the paint — against Kent State’s big shooters. The Flashes outshot the RedHawks from the field and made three 3-pointers while Miami went 0-for-5 for the game.
But during the second half most of the highlights belonged to Fisher, who hit several key jumpers, played strong defense on Bramos — the RedHawks’ top shooter went 1-for-10 — and hit the game-winner.
“I told the coaches before the play that I bet my life on it that he’d hit that shot,” Kent State guard Jordan Mincy said. “When he did, I went over and grabbed hold of both of them and we all jumped around.”
“It hurts, but you have to take off your hats to the opponent,” Miami associate head coach Jermaine Henderson said. “That’s their 27th win on the year, so congrats to them.
“After you salute Kent, I want to salute our players for playing hard and leaving it all out there.”
Miami head coach Charlie Coles missed his sixth straight game after being sidelined late in the regular season with health-related issues.
“We want to pass along our best wishes to Coach Coles,” Christian said. “The game didn’t seem the same without him.”
** Former Miami of Ohio standout and current Cleveland Cavalier Wally Szczerbiak took in Friday night’s semifinal from a front-row seat.
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kent St. 49, Miami 47
MIAMI OF OHIO (17-15): E.Pollitz 2-6 2-2 6, T.Pollitz 6-11 3-7 15, Dierkers 5-9 1-2 11, Hayes 4-5 1-3 9, Bramos 1-10 2-2 4, Haddix 0-0 0-0 0, Moosmann 0-2 0-0 0, Winbush 1-2 0-0 2, McCombs 0-0 0-0 0, Fletcher 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-45 9-16 47.
KENT ST. (27-6): Quaintance 2-7 3-4 7, Scott 3-8 0-0 6, Singletary 4-10 1-2 9, Fisher 4-15 3-3 11, Mincy 2-6 0-0 6, Woods 0-1 0-0 0, Knight 0-0 0-0 0, McKee 0-0 0-0 0, Sherman 4-6 0-2 10, Sullinger 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-53 7-11 49.
Halftime—Kent St. 25-23. 3-Point Goals—Miami (Ohio) 0-5 (E.Pollitz 0-1, Hayes 0-1, Moosmann 0-1, Bramos 0-2), Kent St. 4-14 (Sherman 2-3, Mincy 2-4, Singletary 0-1, Fisher 0-3, Scott 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Miami (Ohio) 31 (Dierkers 11), Kent St. 36 (Quaintance 12). Assists—Miami (Ohio) 10 (Bramos, T.Pollitz 3), Kent St. 9 (Quaintance 3). Total Fouls—Miami (Ohio) 14, Kent St. 14. A—NA.