If you were one of the 2,486 fans at the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center that saw the Kent State women's basketball team defeat Toledo, ranked 25th in the USA Today/ESPN Top 25 poll, 69-68 on Saturday, you got your money's worth.
If you weren't there, you were denied seeing one of the best games of the year. It had everything.
Both teams, tops in their respective divisions in the Mid-American Conference, played dead even until Kent State's Emily Fakes took a 3-point shot from the left wing two steps back from the 3-point arc. She drained the rainbow into a pot of gold with 3.4 seconds left in the game to give the Golden Flashes the lead and the win. It was her only points and the most critical of the game.
"I swear I just threw it up there," said Fakes modestly. "I just prayed it went in."
The win gives Kent State (19-6 overall, 13-2 MAC) a chance at tying Toledo (22-5, 14-2) for the conference championship. The Flashes have to beat Central Michigan in Mount Pleasant on Tuesday to gain a piece of the crown.
The drama started with 2:16 left when Toledo's Kristen Tews made a 3-pointer to give the Rockets a 66-63 lead. Play began to get intense as both team failed to capitalize until Kent State's Dawn Zerman nailed a 3-pointer to tie the game.
"It felt good," said Zerman. "I knew it gave us a chance to win."
Toledo countered with a bucket by Jennifer Markwood with 33 seconds left for a 68-66 edge, setting up the last-second dramatics.
Kent State then called a timeout.
"When you are at home, a coach will normally go for the tie, knowing you have home-court advantage," said Kent State coach Bob Lindsay. "I drew up a play for a 3-pointer. I certainly didn't want to give Toledo another five minutes to beat us.
"The play was designed for either Dawn or Emily to take the shot. Emily hit her spot and made the shot with two Toledo players running at her. She is an excellent shot."
Toledo coach Mark Ehlen said the game wasn't lost on Fakes' shot.
"We lost the ball on our possession before Fakes' shot," said Ehlen. "We played good defense and forced them to use all the clock and sent two players at her.
"On our chance with three seconds left, we tried to get a good shot and luck wasn't with us."
Both coaches said that the game was even. A quick look at the statistics says their statements were true.
Both made 27 field goals, with Toledo making more 3-pointers, 7-4. Kent State had the edge at the foul line, making 11-of-14 while Toledo was 7-of-12. Toledo gathered in 35 rebounds to Kent State's 33. Toledo had the edge in turnovers, 22-20.
"We couldn't get much closer," said Lindsay. "Toledo is a great team and our young team is improving. If you would have told me that we would win with (Jamie) Rubis and (Carrie) Nance scoring only nine points between them, I would have called you crazy.
"Our defense played well. We held Kim Knuth to 13 points, whereas she had 30 against us at Toledo earlier."
In the first half, Kent State jumped out to a quick 10-5 lead only to see Toledo come back to tie at 10-10. In fact, the score was tied six times in the first half and the lead changed hands four times before Zerman tied the game at 34-34 at halftime.
The second half saw Toledo take control of the game briefly, but Kent State fought back. The score was tied four times and the lead changed hands three times before Fakes' heroics.
The key was Kent State's defense. Freshman Kristen Buelow drew the assignment of defending Knuth. The Toledo senior has scored over 2,400 points in her career and is averaging 26.1 points per game this season. She is on her way to player of the year honors in the MAC.
The Flashes weren't going to let Knuth beat them and rose to the occasion. Markwood led the Rockets with 17 points and Leslie Favre added 15.
Kent State's leading scorer was Julie Studer, who took advantage of crisp passes inside to finish with 24 points, a career high. Zerman added 18.
Senior Jenny Kempf did not play because of illness and was sorely missed, because she is the first sub off the bench and averages 18 minutes a game.
With the win, Kent State is seeded in the MAC tournament and will host a first-round game on Friday. The semifinals will be played in Toledo on Sunday, and the championship game will be held the following Monday evening.