Mike Laster sat on the floor just outside the paint and stared at the basket on the opposite end of the court. That basket was the source of Laster and the Bobcats' frustration for the previous 10 minutes.
Laster and the rest of the Bobcats sat, knelt or stood aghast at what should have been their celebration happening just mere feet away.
With just 0.9 seconds left in a nonsensical double overtime game and Ohio playing stout defense, A.J. Gareri committed a foul on a 3-point shot to send Central Michigan forward David DiLeo to the free throw line. The game was tied.
DiLeo had three more silencers, too, as he hit all of his free throws to cap a 101-98 loss for Ohio in The Convo.
“He was just a little bit out of position,” Laster said of Gareri. “End of the day, we really shouldn’t even have been in that spot, for real. Game should’ve been over.”
Laster was likely referencing his missed free throw during double overtime which would have given Ohio a one-point lead with 15 seconds left to play. He had the chance to put Central Michigan away in regulation, too. He missed two free throws with seven seconds left and the game tied.
“It’s not really a good feeling, for real,” Laster said bluntly. “I missed my free throws. Should’ve made them.”
But it would be unfair to put the onus on Laster, who tied for the lead in points (24) while playing with a shoulder that can pop out of place at any second.
The Bobcats had control of the game for 39 minutes of regulation and only first trailed in overtime. Despite keeping a Chippewas team that beat them by 25 just a month ago at arms length, the Bobcats faltered down the stretch to give up the lead.
A Central Michigan layup with 29 seconds to go was the first time the game was tied since the 9:44 mark of the first half.
“Should’ve never gotten to overtime,” coach Saul Phillips said. “I thought we did everything we needed to do offensively to win. Offensively, that was the best we’ve looked in some time.”
The Bobcats shot above 50 percent for the first time since Jan. 6 against Northern Illinois and were led by Laster and Teyvion Kirk — who fouled out with 1:26 left in regulation. But even the best shooting performance in weeks wasn’t enough to salvage the Bobcats from their fourth loss in a row.
Because over the next 11 minutes of game time, madness ensued.
A Laster drive to the basket at the end of regulation was originally called a charge, then later reversed to a block. Laster was awarded his two free throw shots instead.
In the first overtime, Ohio had to battle back for the first time all day and later forced a tie game. Then Laster, redemption ready, hit a 3-pointer in the corner to put Ohio ahead by three with 12 seconds left to play.
The jubilation only lasted for six seconds.
The Chippewas came the other way in transition and, while off-balance, Cecil Williams hit a bank shot 3-pointer to tie the game once more.
“I was trying to get a timeout with the ref up top,” Phillips said. “That being said, a lean-in bank 3 from Cecil Williams wasn’t what we were fearing there. But the kid made his 3 and we didn’t make our free throws.”
Gavin Block missed a floater back the other way and the game extended to its 45th minute of action.
Each of Ohio’s starters had been forced into extra responsibilities with Jordan Dartis (hip) and Kevin Mickle (knee) out of the lineup. The 45th through 50th minute for a team that only played seven players seemed daunting, but the Bobcats had been there before.
It was Ohio's second longest game of the season — a quadruple overtime game against Indiana State taking the cake.
So the Bobcats and Chippewas trudged on, into a second and what both hoped would be final, overtime.
“I was pissed,” Kirk said of watching the overtime periods from the bench. “Of course I’m going to support them, do whatever so they can get the dub.”
The second overtime was more of the same craziness, with hair-raising action at both ends of the floor. Gareri hit a 3-pointer from the corner, his first made 3-pointer in his collegiate career. Ohio, again, had the lead as time ticked away.
After a series of made free throws by the Chippewas to put them in front, the Bobcats went the other way where Laster made a driving layup to tie the game. He had one free throw shot, too, to put the Bobcats ahead.
Laster missed, which culminated an afternoon of missed opportunities and frustration for the Bobcats. And that was before the Gareri foul.
Ohio had seemingly won the game multiple times throughout the afternoon. It was the team’s best offensive performance in a month and the Bobcats managed a seven-man rotation as well as anyone could.
Yet, it happened again. The Bobcats have come agonizingly close down the stretch multiple times this season, only to end up with a loss. Missed free throws, missed shots, late leads given up all have characterized Ohio down the stretch of late.
The time where it looked like Ohio would escape those demons most, however, was before the banked 3-pointer. Laster had just played hero and made his shot to give Ohio the win. It fit the script so well. And for a brief second, it looked like Williams’ shot wouldn’t be close. Kirk called the shot a prayer.
Only someone answered it.
“I’m not really sure how he got it off,” Laster said. “I’m definitely sure he didn’t call glass.”