CLEVELAND — Taylor Agler received the ball at the top of the 3-point line with about three seconds left in the game.
As the ball was thrown in, Agler got open at the top of the arc.
The Bobcats needed a 3-pointer to maintain their hopes of advancing in the Mid-American Conference Tournament. Agler hoisted the shot, but she missed. Ohio lost 69-66 to Miami in Quicken Loans Arena during the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament.
Agler sat at the table in the news conference, along with Dominique Doseck and coach Bob Boldon. The three wore somber faces. While they had exceeded outside expectations, the Bobcats didn’t achieve what they expected of themselves.
“We are very capable of doing more than we did this year,” Agler said. “So, I guess it feels good to exceed expectations of others. But we’re not here to please others.”
Agler is right. The Bobcats had lost five seniors after the 2016-17 season, and they had gained five freshmen. Three of those freshmen – Cierra Hooks, Gabby Burris and Alexis Stover – each played a role in Boldon’s rotation.
Hooks, the newly minted MAC Freshman of the Year, is the team’s best defender and top scorer. Burris, an All-MAC Freshman Team member along with Hooks, rebounds well and scores inside. Stover doesn't earn as much playing time as Hooks and Burris, but she comes in for spurts, able to defend multiple positions on the floor.
The Bobcats were supposed to be a young team, one not capable of doing what they did this season. If anything, the Bobcats losing this game gives them more experience.
Missed shots accumulated in the second half after the RedHawks took Ohio’s 3-pointer away. Though the RedHawks took away jumpers, the Bobcats still had layups. They didn’t make enough, though. Along with that, their offense slowed down.
Ohio didn’t screen well in the second half, but Boldon said that the Bobcats didn’t move the ball well in the first half, either. They simply just made more shots in the first half.
“We got to the foul line, and we missed a couple of those and couldn’t capitalize,” Boldon said. “But I would say the pace of our screening on offense was our biggest detriment.”
The ball lacked energy in the second half, and that’s partly because the Bobcats ran more isolation plays.
That caused the Bobcats to take more layups, which is what the RedHawks wanted.
“We said, ‘hey, if we’re going to give up anything, we’re going to give up layups,’” Miami coach Megan Duffy said. “So what happened is we gave them contested layups and they missed a few.”
Amani Burke and Hooks fouled out of the game in the second half. The Bobcats not having both was a noted loss. They are two of Ohio’s best defenders, as well as the team’s top two scorers.
But for a team that won the 2015 MAC Tournament, for a team that has now played a quarterfinal game for the past three seasons, the Bobcats weren’t going to make excuses.
“Our team is designed for the next person to step up always, so it doesn’t matter who fouls out, it doesn’t matter who’s not healthy,” Agler said. “We count on the next person to step up.”
Stover and Kendall Jessing came in as Burke and Hooks fouled out. Stover and Jessing gave good minutes, but for any team, losing two of its best players will be impactful. What’s important, though, is that the Bobcats don’t think like that.
Though they have now lost three straight quarterfinal games, the Bobcats still have a winning culture that allows them to have resolve.
For a team that not many people expected to do well this season, Ohio exceeded expectations. But the fact that the Bobcats feel they didn’t exceed their own is what makes them a routinely formidable team in the MAC.
“Obviously the last two years have been tough coming up here,” Boldon said. “We provided very good entertainment, coming out on the wrong side twice. But I think that often makes kids tougher and tougher and stronger.”