The University of Akron women’s basketball team finished what it started Saturday afternoon.

Making the result even sweeter, the Zips’ first Mid-American Conference win came in a Wagon Wheel matchup against archrival Kent State at Rhodes Arena.

Joy and relief were evident on the face of Jodi Kest as the Zips coach saluted the home crowd following their 75-60 victory.

“What a great team win today,” Kest said. “These young ladies have been working so hard over the last couple weeks with all that has gone on, and have continued to fight and fight. And today they fought for the whole 40 minutes.”

Too often recently, UA (7-13, 1-8) has been unable to hold onto late leads in close MAC losses as Kest lamented her team’s inability to finish games. KSU (10-11, 3-6) challenged with a late 9-1 run that cut a 14-point deficit to 64-59 with 1:36 left.

Guards lead the way

But this time, the Zips finished with a strong burst behind the dynamic point-guard tandem of sophomore Shaunay Edmonds and freshman Destiny Perkins.

Edmonds and Perkins combined for eight of the Zips’ last 10 points and handled the pressure defense that had helped the Golden Flashes climb back into the game.

Twice in that span, Perkins made lay­ups off Edmonds’ passes after they raced fullcourt on fastbreaks.

Perkins, a 5-foot-6 freshman, scored 19 points — 13 in the fourth quarter — and grabbed eight rebounds and had four assists in 28 minutes. Edmonds, a 5-4 sophomore, scored 15 points, dished out nine assists and added four rebounds in 33 minutes.

Perkins made 7-of-12 field goals, including 3-of-6 on 3-pointers.

“It’s fun because we can get each other going,” Perkins said. “If I get the rebound, I can go, or she gets the rebound, she can go. We kind of just feed off of each other. I feel like we just make it really fast and it’s hard for the defense to figure out what we’re going to do because they just don’t know.”

Typically, they split time on the court but the two played together more than usual Saturday, especially at crunch time. Each made just two turnovers.

“Destiny played unbelievable today,” Kest said. “Shaunay played a good game. It was just a team effort. Today, when we needed to get stops, we got stops.

“We talked at one point in the huddle — I think we were up by maybe four or five — I looked into their eyes and said, ‘We are here to win. Let’s get the stops and we’re going to run. We’re going to keep running and running. We are not going to slow this game down. That is not who we are.’ ”

Kest also praised 6-1 senior forward Greta Burry, who had 11 points, and 6-1 sophomore Caitlin Vari, who scored 10. Haliegh Reinoehl, a 6-1 sophomore, pulled down 13 rebounds.

“It was my gut feeling to go with Greta, a senior, playing against Kent,” Kest said.

Kent’s shooting woes

Jordan Korinek, a 6-3 senior from St. Vincent-St. Mary, led the Flashes with a game-high 22 points and added 10 rebounds. Ali Poole, a 6-0 sophomore, scored 10 points and 5-9 junior Alexa Golden had nine points and 13 rebounds. But the Flashes shot just 28.6 percent from the floor.

The Zips led 13-11 after one quarter and 32-29 at halftime. UA senior Lauren Hung scored five of her seven points to close the third quarter with the Zips up 47-42. They started the fourth on an 11-2 run, building the lead to 68-45.

“It was hard for us to fight through adversity at the end of games,” Perkins said. “Today we kind of fought through adversity the whole game and that made a big difference.”

Todd Starkey, the MAC coach of the year when he guided the Flashes to 19 wins last year (two over Akron) — their best one since 2005 — has found the going more difficult in his second season.

“The most important ingredient in today’s win for Akron was they just wanted it more than we did,” Starkey said. “It’s a team that’s been playing good basketball in conference play and they’ve been close sometimes, and they weren’t going to be denied today.

“Kudos to them. They played hungry and we knew that was going to be the case. We tried to prepare for that and our players didn’t respond the way they needed to. We got outworked tonight.”