[Bryan Kurp | WOUB]

Ohio Women’s Basketball falls to Toledo in MAC Quarterfinal after a stellar performance from Sophia Wiard

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOUB) – Five days after the Ohio Bobcats thought their season concluded, it started up again. After battling it out with top-seeded Toledo Wednesday morning, the Rockets eventually pulled away with the 80-67 win over the Bobcats.

Ohio didn’t back down from the challenge and played a tight game against Toledo, a team they split the regular season series with. Toledo had a narrow 34-32 lead at the half thanks to a mid-range jumper by Jayda Jansen in the final seconds. Jansen finished with nine points on 50 percent shooting from the field.

In the second half, Toledo jumped out to a nine-point lead that was cut down to five before the end of the third quarter after Gabby Burris hit a three-point shot as the clock expired. Burris finished the game with 13 points and five rebounds.

Toledo's Sophia Wiard (2) looks at her teammates after a basket in the Rockets' game against Ohio on March 9, 2022
Toledo’s Sophia Wiard (2) looks at her teammates after a basket in the Rockets’ MAC quarterfinal matchup against Ohio on March 9, 2022

Toledo’s depth proved to be the difference in the final frame as the Rockets built up a double-digit lead and held off the late Ohio run to take home the win.

Toledo’s Sophia Wiard put on a show Wednesday, finishing one rebound shy of a triple-double. Wiard added 10 assists to go along with her 19 points, which tied a team high with Quinesha Lockett.

“I thought Sophia Wiard put together one of the best performances she’s ever had in a Toledo uniform,” Toledo head coach Tricia Cullop said.

In total, Lockett and Wiard were two of four Toledo players to finish with double digits in scoring. Khera Goss added ten points and Sammi Mikonowicz scored 11 points to add to the balanced attack by the Rockets. Mikonowicz also grabbed nine rebounds.

“Toledo is a really good team. Fundamentally, they do what they’re supposed to do, and they’re disciplined,” Erica Johnson said.

“They’re a disciplined team and that’s what makes them so hard to guard. You can guard them well for 25 seconds and still give up a wide-open shot,” Ohio head coach Bob Boldon said.

For Ohio, their scoring all season has primarily come from the trio of Erica Johnson, Cece Hooks and Gabby Burris. Wednesday’s game didn’t prove to be any different. The trio combined to score 60 of Ohio’s 67 points.

Erica Johnson led the Bobcats in scoring with 25 points. Johnson also grabbed eight rebounds to go along with the points. Hooks finished the game with a double-double of 22 points and 11 rebounds.

Despite keeping the game within reach for majority of the game, Ohio couldn’t get over the hump and take control of the game. They had plenty of opportunities to get and build a lead but were unable to do so. They had a perfect opportunity to do so in the second quarter when both teams went on long scoring droughts.

“They’re hard to guard and when you do get stops, you want to take advantage of them,” Boldon said. “I think they made some more timely shots. It got away from us there at the end.”

Ohio’s Cece Hooks drives to the hoops in the Bobcats’ game against Toledo in the MAC Quarterfinals on March 9, 2022.

With the loss on Wednesday, the Cece Hooks era has ended for Ohio basketball. She finishes her impressive career as the all-time leading scorer in MAC history and one of the best defensive players in league history. Along with Hooks, Burris and Kaylee Bambule played in their final games for the green and white.

“She’s exceptional. Not only is she a great scorer, but she’s a great rebounder and a great defensive player,” Cullop said. I’m really impressed on what she has been able to accomplish in her career and I think Bob (Boldon) put her in a lot of good situations to take advantage of it. I’m not going to miss her next year because she is so hard to defend.”

Erica Johnson’s future is still up in the air. If she decides to return, she’ll be the star player alongside players like Yaya Felder, Madi Mace and Peyton Guice to name a few.

As impressive as the senior class was for Ohio, they don’t have any conference tournament titles to show for it, which wasn’t necessarily according to plan. The COVID-19 cancellation of the 2020 tournament doesn’t make matters any better since Ohio had a decent shot at winning the title that year.

For the Toledo Rockets, their hopes of a conference tournament title continue Friday when they take on Ball State.

“I was really proud of our players. I thought coming into this game, (Ohio) was the best eight-seed in the country. We knew this battle in the first round was going to be one of the toughest we will face,” Cullop said.