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Ohio junior guard Mike Laster yells in celebration in the immediate aftermath of the Bobcat's comeback win over Toledo on Thursday, March 9, 2017. Redshirt senior forward Kenny Kaminski hit a game-winning shot with seven seconds left.

Men's Basketball: Ohio mounts incredible comeback, heads to MAC semifinals

CLEVELAND —It wasn't hard to see the hill Ohio had to climb.

Down 15 with just over three minutes left in the first half, Ohio was 23 minutes away from elimination. The reminder, in the form of a 5,550-foot video screen, hung over the Bobcats' heads like a haunting cloud, an oppressive reminder of what hadn't been accomplished yet.

Then, with the Bobcats shooting as cold as ice, they grabbed an axe and slowly chipped away. And away. And away. The end was nothing other than incredible — a Kenny Kaminski jumpshot off the left wing with just 7.8 seconds left.

Ohio had climbed the hill.

"Felt pretty March-y out there," coach Saul Phillips quipped. "Really, really gutty effort. We felt pretty good going in at the half. I think Jaaron (Simmons) really sparked us with his defense late in the first half. I think the rest of the team responded."

Kaminski's jumpshot, the shot that will get remembered by everyone that watched, wasn't the climax in actuality. Despite his heroics, the effort that led to the win had been put forth much, much earlier.

Ohio trailed 32-17 with 3:36 left in the first half, and at that point an upset of the tournament's second seed seemed not only possible, but likely.

But Ohio closed the half on a 12-5 run to cut the lead to an attainable margin by halftime. And after an 8-0 run to start the second half, the Bobcats found themselves right back where they thought they'd be.

In a seesaw battle in the second half, Ohio, in a polar opposite of the first half, led for the majority.

"It's always been preached to me to trust the process," Kaminski said. "For a long time there, I didn't really believe in myself at one point in my career, and when I came to Ohio everything changed for me. I've got a big passion for the game again, and everything for me has really taken off."

Ohio had taken the lead in a game that once looked hopeless. For the green and white supporters behind the Bobcats' bench, the effort was nothing short of extraordinary.

"It's like climbing a cliff, you've got to get your fingers in somewhere and pull yourself up, and that's kind of what we did," Phillips said.

But there was that hill again.

Toledo had taken the lead with just seconds remaining as Ohio intentionally fouled. The comeback was just a few ticks away from being rendered a footnote.

With the final seconds flying off the once again haunting clock, Simmons settled down, fired the pass to Kaminski, and the comeback was complete.

It wasn't outright joy just yet, however. At least not publicly.

"I've got guys, we've got March bench going, tournament bench, right, we've got all this stuff going on. There's got to be some source of calm over there," Phillips said. "Now I'm going to go back to my hotel room and jump up and down on my bed 65 times."


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