With about five and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter, and with the Kent State women’s basketball team comfortably ahead of Clarion 77-35, coach Todd Starkey decided to pull sophomore guard Casey Santoro from the game
Santoro was in the starting lineup for the first time this season, and the third time in her career, in place of senior guard Mariah Modkins, who was out with COVID-19.
As she went to the bench, her teammates started to yell “Put her back in.”
Santoro was just two assists away from a triple-double.
Starkey put her back in with 3:32 left in the game, and after two Clarion free-throw attempts, Santoro recorded her ninth assist on a three pointer to freshman forward Bridget Dunn.
Less than a minute later, Santoro passed the ball to Dunn who, once again, sank a three pointer.
Santoro finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. It is the first triple-double in KSU basketball history, by either the men or women’s team.
“I kept saying ‘She’s insane,’” senior guard Hannah Young said. “It’s really cool to see something like that. Our team was like ‘Hey, she can’t get these assists unless we knock them down.’ It was a team effort to be able to get something like that.”
Starkey said that he had to balance her workload with her potential achievement.
“We also had to manage her too,” he said. “We don’t want her potentially getting hurt with how important she is to what we’re doing right now. But it was awesome to see her play. She was just out there playing, she didn’t go into the game trying to do that.
“You don’t do that by accident. It’s the type of habits that she has everyday, her work ethic and focus. She’s tough as nails. There were a lot of universities that didn’t even look at recruiting her. A lot of people said ‘You can’t take her, she’s too small.’ I said ‘She doesn’t have to be good for you, she just has to be good for me.’”
Starkey added that he likes having small point guards on the team.
“I’ve won six championships in my career,” he said. “Every championship I’ve won, I’ve had a small point guard. They play with a chip on their shoulder. People tell them they can’t do it, and they go out everyday to try and prove that they can. I love that level of competitiveness from her.”
The rebounds and assists are both career-highs for Santoro.
Santoro said the achievement feels pretty special.
“It feels pretty awesome,” she said. “But I couldn’t have done it without my teammates knocking down the shots. So credit to them. I knew I was that close and I’m like ‘I have to get them, and they have to knock them down.’”
This triple-double came during special circumstances.
Santoro achieved the feat while playing against her younger sister Cory, who is a freshman guard for Clarion, and with several people from the duo’s hometown of Bellevue in attendance, including the sisters’ parents.
Cory said it was "pretty cool" seeing her sister get the triple-double.
"It's pretty awesome seeing your sister get that," Cory said. "And I guess it's okay if she gets it against your team."
The Flashes ultimately won the game 89-43.
KSU improves to 8-1, its best start to a season since 2008-09 when it started out 11-1. Division II Clarion’s record stays at 2-5 as this was an exhibition game for the team.
Kent State was in control from the start, jumping out to a 24-10 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Clarion’s largest run of the game was a 7-0 run near the end of the third quarter, which made it 58-29 KSU.
Young had her first career double-double after recording a career-high 16 points and 13 rebounds, two short of her career high, in 21 minutes.
Young said one of the coaches noticed she was close to breaking her rebound record and told her to try and beat it.
“I was like ‘Okay,’” Young said with a laugh. “I didn’t end up beating it but that’s fine.”
Dunn had a career performance in her short time as a Flash with career highs in points (15), rebounds (7) and assists (2).
Young said that Dunn “comes in to work every day in practice.”
“She’s really good at shooting,” Young said. “[She’s really good at] shooting the three and just playing hard. She’s a really good teammate, a good listener, and that’s helping her become a really good freshman player.”
Senior guard/forward Annie Pavlansky, who has only been on the court for 150 minutes in her four years at Kent State, had a career-high 10 points, two rebounds and a steal.
Starkey said Pavlansky has been “working her tail off everyday for four years.”
“It was great,” Starkey said. “Her teammates were cheering her on, [telling her] to keep shooting the ball because she knocked down back-to-back threes. Heck of a shooter. She was a heck of a high school player. We’ve had a lot of talent here over the last four years, and she hasn’t been able to get the playing time that she would like. It’s an awesome thing to see somebody’s work pay off like that.”
The Flashes outrebounded the Golden Eagles 55-30, their largest win in three seasons.
Clarion only shot 24.1 percent from the field, and it was 15.4 percent on three pointers.
Santoro said that she thought the defense was good, but it could have been better.
“In multiple of our timeouts we [talked about how] we weren’t communicating,” she said. “And we weren’t in our gaps that good. It’s pretty cool to hold them to the amount of points we did, but it could have been even better if we had been more connected.”
KSU had a season-low 8 turnovers, while the Golden Eagles 11 which Kent State scored 9 points off of.
The Flashes had a season-high 23 assists compared to Clarion’s seven.
Kent State will next play Florida State (6-2) on Tuesday, Dec. 21 at 4 p.m. at the M.A.C Center in its finals non-conference game.
KSU already has two wins against Power Five teams after beating No. 19 UCLA and Penn State during the Gulf Coast Showcase.
Starkey said that the game has been “kind of sitting out there.”
“I’m sure people talk about how we’ve already beat two Power Fives,” Starkey said. “Can you beat a third? They are each individual games. Match-ups are different. We played UCLA and Penn State earlier in the season, now Florida State’s played more games, has more experience.”
Jimmy Oswald is a sports editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.