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Kennesaw State’s historic bet — and how it paid off in a monumental way

Last night, Kennesaw State surprisingly upset one of the top teams in the A-Sun, Stetson. The Hatters didn’t see it coming but the Owls entered the game with the belief this game was theirs — and it’s because of their head coach.

Kennesaw State Athletics

Kennesaw, GA — Predictions are a beautiful thing, especially when they come true.

It’s defined as “a statement about what will happen or might happen in the future.”

One unique aspect about people and their relationship with sports, is that most, if not all, individuals love to make predictions — even to the point, they are willing to place some financial backing behind said prognostications. It’s even to the point where some “journalists” have morphed into a wannabe reincarnation of Nostradamus (Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith and so on).

Be honest: Who here reading this column has not made a prediction regarding sports?

Exactly my point.

Well last night, there was a game of importance in the ASun conference. If there was a betting line in ASun Women’s basketball, and the game that was available to pick from was Stetson versus Kennesaw State, with a 100% certainty, everyone would choose Stetson.

Yes, everyone.

Moreover, if they asked you what the point spread would be, it would most likely be +15 for the Hatters.

Yes, it would be that massive.

Let’s also, for good measure, try and pick the correct score. Hmmm, 66-49. That’s sounds about right for the Hatters, right?

And while that margin of victory — and final score — would prove to be spot-on, apropos and exact, there’s one surprising resultant: the Owls from Kennesaw were the team, that slayed one of the proverbial giants in the conference. And there wouldn’t have been one person, in the conference or out of it, on-the-record or off-the-record that would have made that wager — not a singular one.

Moreover, if anyone said they would, I have a some property in Belize to sell you.

Except there was one: Kennesaw State head coach Agnus Berenato. There was no “might” in her belief; she expected it to happen.

“I am excited; I knew we were going to win,” said an overjoyed and ecstatic Berenato.

The ardent, gregarious, charismatic leader with a magnetic personality — which was on full display speaking to the assembled fans after the game — of the Owls was not speaking conjecture, or overzealous hyperbole masked by knowledge of the outcome after such a gratifying, shocking win.

Kennesaw State Athletics

No, no, no, she candidly believed it from the inner depths of her soul. From telling her team before the weekend, that they were going to capture a win against one of the conference’s perennial giants.

“I told them on Friday; I said ‘we are going to split this weekend. You have (to have) that blind faith in me that we are going to split this weekend.’”

Her unwavering confidence was not vain, pointless or futile, there was a purpose behind it. From watching film for so many hours, barely sleeping, because of the intensity Berenato put on winning this game — fully understanding the gravity and reverberations it could have for Owls program, that it led to exhaustion and strain.

“I was up the whole night because I said, ‘we are going to win tonight.’ I know in my mind. I have played it out. I know what we are going to do defensively, but the stress of that is making me have a huge fever blister,” said a smiling Berenato.

However, even with a potent augury and inner belief, the Owls’ leader felt, it was Kennesaw State’s execution and relentless attack, that lifted the Owls to what seemed like an improbable win, despite the wonderful conjecture prior to tonight. Last night, Kennesaw State was one unison with one heartbeat.

“Before the game I wrote on the board that we have learned a lot,” Berenato stated. “We have improved a lot. We are passionate. We play for each other. Then I wrote ‘tonight, we have to grow. We have to put our passion on the court. We are one team.

The Owls were not only prepared; they threw the kitchen sink at Stetson defensively — literally. You name the defense; they ran it, no seriously, they really did.

Full court press, check.

34 quarter press, check.

1-2-2 traps, check.

Multiple zones, check.

Switching from zone to man in the same possession, check.

Kennesaw State not only looked primed, but intensely focused, and as the game waned into the deep waters of competition, one could see the Owls’ players belief in the prophetic words of Berenato:

Kennesaw State Athletics

“We are going to split this weekend. You have (to have) that blind faith in me that we are going to split this weekend.”

On the other hand, the Hatters looked discombobulated, and did not match the Kennesaw State’s intensity in spite a 10-1 start to the game. Turnovers, lack of focus, passive defense and general lack of toughness were the root of much of Stetson’s issues against the much more driven Kennesaw, a team playing with a purpose, a team that was starting to believe in Coach Berenato’s confident bet.

One person from the Owls’ staff was thrilled with the Hatters’ lack of aggression on defense in the first half. “I was shocked they didn’t pressure us more, and allowed us to get comfortable in our offense in the first half, especially when we were down 10-1.”

Moreover, once Kennesaw State overcame their sluggish start and mounted their comeback, they put their foot on the gas, while Stetson went into neutral, as their players looked more like someone stuck in a morass. Hardly cutting, costly turnovers and not moving with any real purpose offensively.

You could see the frustration on Hatters’ head coach Lynn Bria, who has garnered much praise from coaches off-the-record, raving privately about the unique things they are running on offense.

But, a lot of that had to do with a team in Kennesaw believing in the vision, words, and belief their head coach had.

Ironically, Kennesaw State took a gamble on Berenato, Berenato took a gamble on the Owls — and last night, it wasn’t a bad beat, far from it.

It looks like they both cashed in on one of Kennesaw State’s most significant wins in ASun history.

One of the brightest stars on the team, sophomore Carlotta Gianolla, summed it up best.

“I’m so happy.”

What a bet, coach, what a bet!