Taylor Agler and Ohio had been through the wringer.
But as Agler drove to the hoop with under 10 seconds left in overtime, she quickly turned Ohio’s frustration into relief.
Agler was fouled as she went to the hoop, and she made the bucket. She smiled, and Katie Barker gave her a hug as teammates surrounded her amid the jubilation. Agler made the free throw to complete the three-point play.
Gabby Burris stole the ball off Akron’s inbound pass, and that sealed the win for the Bobcats. The Bobcats defeated the Zips 70-67 in overtime Saturday in The Convo.
“That last play, I let Taylor call whatever she wanted, and I’m just so proud of her for calling her own number,” coach Bob Boldon said. “It’s easy to call your own number, but then you've got to produce. And she produced in the biggest moment for us.”
The Bobcats’ climb was the epitome of gritty. Ohio had perhaps its worst first half of the season, one where it made one 3-pointer and shot 22.2 percent from the field.
But the Bobcats were a different team in the second half and overtime.
The Bobcats began to stray from shooting so many threes, and they started making more free throws as they continued going to the free throw line. Ohio was down by as many as 14 points in the third quarter, but led 42-41 at the end of the quarter.
And then the lull came in the middle of the fourth quarter.
The Bobcats didn’t score for over three minutes in the quarter. After Akron was up 59-54 with 31 seconds left in regulation, Barker hit a three to cut the lead to 59-57. It was Barker’s first three of the game after missing her first seven.
A few possessions later, Burris, a freshman forward, scored off a putback after Amani Burke missed a 3-pointer. Burris’ shot sent the game into overtime, and from there, Ohio continued to battle until Agler’s game-winning layup.
Relief then set in. The Bobcats (8-6, 2-1 Mid-American Conference) had overcome perhaps the most adversity they’ve faced in one game this season.
“All those kids, even Taylor, you know she’s a senior, but she’s only been with us for a couple years,” Boldon said. “And she started last year, but then you got these kids, everybody else that’s never even started three conference games.”
The Bobcats — a young team with Agler being the lone senior — having this type of experience will be important. Boldon said conference play is harder than non-conference play because teams are more familiar with each other.
Agler transferred from Indiana in 2015. She didn’t play during the 2015-16 season for Ohio because of NCAA transfer rules.
But she wasn’t the only player instrumental in Ohio’s win. She had 16 points, nine rebounds and six assists. But Burris had 17 points, tying a career-high. And Burke had 19 points.
The effort to come back and defeat the Zips (6-8, 0-3 MAC) was team-oriented.
Because in the second half, the Bobcats played with what has the potential to be a winning formula: an aggressive defense and an offense that is fluid, not running through one player.
“There’s a lot of teaching to be done, and there’s a lot of learning to be done,” Boldon said. “And we’re going to do just that.”