Ohio Women’s Basketball: Bobcats Lose Another Heartbreaker in Cleveland

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CLEVELAND, OH – For the second straight year, the Ohio Women’s basketball team’s season ends in heartbreak.

A year ago, the Bobcats blew a 22-point led against the Northern Illinois Huskies in the 2017 Mid-American Conference quarterfinal.

Wednesday afternoon, the fifth-seeded Bobcats (16-15, 9-9 MAC) led for 30-plus minutes against archrival and  the fourth-seeded Miami RedHawks (21-9, 12-6 MAC), only to let the game slip out of their hands to lose 69-66.

Not being able to make THE play was the story for the Bobcats this season.

Senior guard Taylor Agler missed a go-ahead 3-pointer against Buffalo in a four-point loss on Jan. 17th.

Junior guard Katie Barker also missed what would’ve been the game-winning 3-pointer in a two-point loss against MAC regular-season champion Central Michigan on Feb. 7th.

Again, they both had opportunities on the biggest stage.

The Bobcats trailed by one as Agler kicked to Barker from the top of the key to regain the lead, but again, Barker fell short.

One last chance for the Bobcats down by three, with three seconds to go.

Agler was given the chance: a 3-pointer that would’ve sent the game to overtime – the final shot of her collegiate career didn’t even graze iron.

Even though the shots down the stretch didn’t fall, Agler hung her head high after the game.

“We got a lot of good looks that we usually make, we usually make more of our layups, we usually make those three’s, so, I don’t think that’s anything to be disappointed about,” Agler said. “We have a really good team and we usually make those shots, so there’s nothing more than to keep creating those shots.”

The Bobcats are now 5-17 in MAC quarterfinal games; to try and beat those odds were even harder when they lost both their top-two scorers within the first 20 seconds of the fourth quarter.

Sophomore guard Amani Burke fouled out with 16 seconds left in the third quarter.

Freshman guard Cierra Hooks then joined her 20 seconds into the fourth quarter when she also fouled out.

The RedHawks saw the opportunity with the Bobcats soul searching for someone to step up offensively and they made their run.

Sophomore Lauren Dickerson and Junior forward Kendall McCoy scored the teams’ first six points of the fourth frame that put the RedHawks up for good.

The duo were Bobcat killers in the teams’ three meetings this year as they helped complete the three-game sweep of the Bobcats this year.

McCoy (five points, 1-of-6) had an off game, but Dickerson was brilliant (23 points), and once again, made the plays late in the game to win it.

After a Kayla Brown layup, the RedHawks had their biggest lead of the game at eight, but the Bobcats didn’t give up.

Agler and Barker scored the team’s next six points to get the game back down to one possession.

But Dickerson played to her First-Team All-MAC selection as she got fouled, absorbed an elbow from Junior forward Kendall Jessing, and made an acrobatic floater to make it a two-score game.

Dickerson made THE play that Barker and Agler didn’t.

Barker and Agler had their chance, but fell short.

The Bobcats played almost as good as a first half as they have all year. They shot 9-of-15 (60%) from three — led by Dominique Doseck, who was 4-of-5 from distance — paced the Bobcats with 15 points.

She, much like the Bobcat offense in the second half, was stagnant. She didn’t hit a shot in the second half and finished with 17 points.

The loss of the Bobcats’ top-two scorers could be an explanation for that, but Bobcats head coach Bob Boldon and the rest of the team believe in the next man up mentality.

“I think Taylor was right, we have the mentality that we’re going to worry about the kids on the floor and they’re going to try their best to win the game,” Boldon said.

The Bobcats hit one lone 3-pointer in the second half; the one advantage they had on the RedHawks was gone.

But even Hooks, who was just named the MAC Freshman Player of the Year, still didn’t look herself after suffering an ankle injury against the RedHawks last Wednesday.

Before fouling out, she finished just 3-of-12 for only six points as she missed uncharacteristic layups.

This Bobcat team went as their star freshman went and the team struggled to score in stretches – something this team dealt with all year.

Boldon refused to let that be an excuse for the loss.

“Obviously [Hooks] is nowhere near 100 percent and that’s been a struggle for the last two weeks and that’s just what it is,” Boldon said.  “You can’t — it’s just an obstacle.”

There’s plenty of silver linings for the Bobcats. Many people did not think this team would finish inside the top-five after losing four of their five starters a season ago.

Nearly knocking off the top-two teams in the Convocation Center this year in Buffalo and Central Michigan, this team showed they can compete with the elite of the conference.

Next year, the Bobcats will return everyone except Agler, the lone senior, who felt she left her mark on this team.

“Knowing that this was my last year, I wanted to try to make a positive impact on everybody, especially the freshmen,” Agler said. “So, I think my biggest thing this year was just to try to be a positive leader because I’ve always believed in positive leadership and making sure everyone knows on my team how great they are.”

This game will be a learning experience for Burke, Hooks, and freshman Gabby Burris and they will remember the pain of losing this game.

After being so close two years in a row, the Bobcats will be hungrier than ever, so to everyone in the MAC: The Ohio Bobcats will be a force in this league for years to come and Boldon thinks so too.

“Obviously, the last two years have been tough coming up here,” Boldon said. “We provided very good entertainment, come out on the wrong side twice. I think that often makes kids tougher and tougher and stronger, and I think they’ll be poised to come back and be a better basketball team next year.”