Ohio Women’s Basketball: Dominant 4th Quarter Sends ‘Cats to 2nd Round of WNIT

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ATHENS, OH — Through three quarters, High Point was getting nearly everything they wanted on the offensive end of the court. In the first 30 minutes, the Panthers had made 58.1 percent of their shots and were hitting from beyond the arc at a 46 percent clip on their way to scoring 61 points.

If Ohio wanted their season to continue beyond Thursday night, they would need to drastically improve their defense in the final quarter.

And the Bobcats did just that.

In what could have been their final 10 minutes of the season, the Bobcats’ (28-5) defense came up big against the Panthers (22-9), holding them to just 13 points on 4-of-20 shooting to turn a three-point deficit at the beginning of the fourth into a seven-point victory.

Ohio advanced to the second round of the WNIT, defeating High Point 81-74.

“They dug in. I thought we were in their space a little bit more, disrupted the rhythm of what they were trying to do and got a couple steals on top of that,” Ohio head coach Bob Boldon said. “I told them that at this point, you’re either going to go out there and try (on defense) or your season is going to be over.”

Even prior to the fourth, the Bobcat defense had done some good things. Panthers’ leading scorer Emma Bockrath, who averaged 16.3 ppg coming into Thursday night, was held to just six points before fouling out with 6:35 to play.

Ohio also forced High Point to turn the ball over 20 times, scoring 26 points off of the Panther miscues.

Even with all that, High Point was giving the Bobcats all kinds of problems.

“They were making everything. Some of it was bad defense, but there was times we played good defense and they still made shots,” Boldon said. “But you have to say, look they’ve made some tough shots, but that can’t deter you from playing good defense.”

Luckily for the Bobcats, they were able to keep up with the firepower that the Panthers brought to the Convo. High Point, even with shooting nearly 60 percent from the field and 50 percent from three in the first half, was never able to pull out to a lead greater than seven.

Each time High Point started to pull away, Ohio would claw their way back. The Panthers’ seven-point lead came with 3:52 left in the first quarter, but the Bobcats would take the lead by the end of the quarter thanks to a 14-6 run. In the second quarter, much of the same happened. High Point took a six-point lead with 5:48 to play in the first half only to see the Bobcats take a one-point lead into the locker room at halftime.

“I feel like our offense was pretty steady all game,” Bobcat guard Dom Doseck said. “But when we really locked in on defense, our offense looked even better.”

When the defense stepped up in the fourth, the Bobcats went on an 18-4 run. The final quarter started with Ohio trailing 61-58 and, thanks to that run, the ‘Cats had built as much as a 13-point lead.

The game went from close to, seemingly, over in a span of two minutes and 21 seconds.

“In the fourth quarter, we were just having fun,” Bobcat guard Cece Hooks said. “We were just enjoying playing.”

“We were just smiling and laughing on the court,” Doseck added. “Not at anything in particular, but that’s just us having fun out there.”

All five Bobcat starters finished the game in double figures. Hooks led all scorers with 21 points. The guard also hauled in nine rebounds.

Amani Burke added 18 points while Erica Johnson totaled 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Gabby Burris and Doseck both finished with 11 points.

As an added level of difficulty on Thursday night, for much of the game, the High Point faithful did all they could to make they Convo feel foreign to the Bobcats.

High Point brought a large contingency of supporters the roughly 325 miles to Athens, including the cheerleading squad and the band.

The Convo didn’t even have its longtime PA announcer Lou Horvath for the game.

“The Convo didn’t feel like home tonight. It was definitely weird not having Lou here, especially in warm ups,” Doseck said.

“It was like they were trying to throw us off our game. They moved the band to the other side, we ain’t got Lou,” Hooks added. “It was weird.”

But even throughout all of that, the Bobcats were able to accomplish something that no other team had done in the history of the program: 28 wins in a single season.

The win over High Point gives the 2018-19 team the record for most wins in a season.

“It’s a special moment for me and my teammates. I’m really proud of all of them and all of the work we’ve put in,” Doseck said. “I was excited for me and my teammates.”

“That’s cool,” Boldon said with a smile. “I think it’s something to be proud of.”

The Bobcats will have a chance to add to that win total on Sunday afternoon. The Convo will get to host a second-round WNIT game for the first time since 2016 when Ohio plays host to Middle Tennessee State.

The Blue Raiders (23-10) defeated IUPUI to advance to play the Bobcats.

Tip-off at the Convo is set for 2 p.m.