Mike Laster knew senior night was designed to celebrate more than his journey from bench dweller to team leader. Laster wanted to give Sam Frayer and Antonio Bisutti a chance to play, too.
With 1:38 remaining Tuesday, he achieved his goal by making two free throws to extend Ohio's lead to 20.
On the next Ohio possession, Bisutti checked in for graduate transfer Kevin Mickle and Frayer checked in for Laster. Before heading to the bench, Laster embraced Frayer.
“I did everything I could to get you out there on the floor," Laster told him. "Make sure you get a chance to play on senior night.”
In Ohio's 75-59 win over Bowling Green, Laster helped his fellow seniors experience a proper sendoff. And with a career-high seven assists, he helped four other teammates achieve double figures en route to a comfortable win in his last game at The Convo.
Laster has improved as much as anyone in his four years as a Bobcat. He's become a go-to scoring option his senior season, including Tuesday when he tied for the team lead with 16 points. But what stood out more was his court vision.
“I mean, I’ve always considered myself a good passer,” Laster said. “I see the floor pretty well. It just really clicked tonight, honestly.”
With 2:40 remaining and the Bobcats struggling to put the Falcons away, Ohio put the ball in Laster's hands. He drove with his left hand and slipped a pass midair to Doug Taylor between the shoulders of two Bowling Green defenders. He looked trapped on the play, but he said he saw Taylor rolling to the rim the entire time.
Laster's unselfish nature spread into the minds of his teammates throughout the game, as Ohio recorded its second highest assist total of the season (20). At least five players scored in double figures for the fourth straight game.
The last time the Bobcats faced the Falcons, they played a polar opposite style. They attacked the rim in one-on-three situations. They passed the ball just 13 times in one 11-possession stretch. They finished with three assists.
But they fixed those problems. Despite injuries and inexperience at key positions, Ohio's offense is starting to look the way its coach wants with one regular season game remaining.
“They just kept working at it,” Phillips said. “It’s getting there. It’s getting there quick.”
Phillips has praised Laster's improvement all season. Laster emerged as the leading scorer first semester. He dislocated his shoulder but refused to miss extended time because of it.
Against Bowling Green, Laster found a new way to impress his coach.
“He’s playing on a bum shoulder, has been all year," Philips said. "And the guy’s still figuring out a way to put up career numbers.”
Bum shoulder and all, Laster made it to senior night. He made it a memorable final performance.
He won't remember the emotions he fought in pregame warm ups and again after he checked out for the final time in Athens. That's not how Laster operates. He's all business.
Instead, Laster said he'll remember winning his final home game. He'll remember holding Bowling Green to 59 points. He'll remember getting his teammates involved.
He left the fans with something to remember him by, too.
"Lava Cakes in The Convo," Laster said.