Bob Boldon was celebrated on the court after Ohio's win, when the PA announcer read off his accomplishments. Boldon, who had just won his 100th game with the Bobcats, was handed the game ball.
Boldon didn’t care much for that milestone, though. He had another feat he was relieved to accomplish — a trip to Cleveland for the next round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
The Bobcats secured a spot in the MAC Tournament quarterfinals by defeating Akron 85-73 in Monday’s first-round game in The Convo.
“The most important thing about tonight is winning the game and going to Cleveland,” Boldon said.
Boldon was alone, however, in brushing off the personal accolade he reached with the win. Sophomore guard Amani Burke was ecstatic about being part of the team that helped Boldon capture the milestone.
Boldon, Burke and the rest of the Bobcats can all agree heading to Cleveland is the sweetest victory.
The path to the quarterfinals wasn’t paved with gold, though. The Bobcats (16-14) clung to an eight point lead entering the fourth quarter and could not find separation between them and the Zips (9-21).
But Burke, along with Gabby Burris and Taylor Agler, created the separation at the right times. Early in the fourth, Akron cut the lead to five, but Burris made a layup to stretch it back to seven. Later, Akron again cut the lead to five, followed by Burke and Agler going on a combined 5-0 run to cushion the lead to 10.
Finally, with 3:34 left, Burke hit a 3-pointer — her fourth of the game — to extend the lead to eight. With less than two minutes to play, a 4-0 run by Cierra Hooks provided enough of a gap for the Bobcats to close out the game.
“It was intense,” Burke said. “We definitely had to just lock in, listen to each other, talk more and just stay with the flow of the game and just not slow down or give in.”
It wasn’t just the trio of Burke, Agler and Burris, though. Kendall Jessing had a career-high 12 points. Five Bobcats scored in double figures. It was a team win.
And now that team win translates to a ticket to Quicken Loans Arena, the 20,562 seat palace that hosts the Cleveland Cavaliers on most nights. But Wednesday, it will host Ohio, the fifth seed in the tournament, as it faces off with archrival Miami, the fourth seed.
“We’re certainly excited to get to Cleveland and take part in the festivities,” Boldon said. “It’s a great environment. The games are intense. Everyone’s playing for their lives. It’s a fun way to do it.”
With so much left to play for over the next five days, Boldon and the Bobcats know they couldn’t have advanced without a win, but the win can also be used as momentum going forward.
Entering the first round, Ohio had lost three straight games. But after the victory over Akron, that seems like an eternity ago. The Bobcats’ focus is forward as they make their way to Cleveland.
“We’re going to continue on with this momentum and give everybody our best shot,” Jessing said.