Cece Hooks stood in the huddle with her teeth and muscles clenched. She was furious.
Ohio was tied at 57 with 5.6 seconds left. Middle Tennessee State tied the game moments earlier after Hooks missed both free throws to secure the win. Before going to the line she had a wide-open layup, but she allowed herself to get fouled.
“I should have took the layup,” she thought to herself.
While Hooks replayed the missed opportunity in her head, coach Bob Boldon was drawing up the Bobcat’s game-winning play. A play designed for Hooks.
Hooks cut left, caught the pass from Erica Johnson, faked inside against her mismatched defender before racing past her to the outside and hitting a game-winning layup to propel Ohio to a 59-57 win over MTSU on Sunday afternoon in The Convo.
The Bobcats cleared the bench to grab, slap and pull at Hooks in excitement. She stood in the huddle with her teeth and muscles clenched. She was ecstatic.
The win advanced Ohio to the third round of the WNIT.
For Hooks, her game-winner was just the candles on top of the icing on the cake of a day that saw her score her 1,000th point and break her record for steals in a season.
But for her, the most important thing was the win.
“I’m just glad we won,” Hooks said. “I made the winning shot. Let’s move forward.”
Ohio struggled with the Blue Raiders the entire game. MTSU’s size and physicality made it difficult for Ohio’s offense to get any rhythm. Ohio knew MTSU’s defense would be a challenge, but it underestimated how well the Blue Raiders offense could be.
Entering the second half, Ohio knew its offense wouldn’t bail it out. It would have to match MTSU bucket for bucket and make key stops. Hooks — the MAC Defensive Player of the Year — led the drive.
“The award that she got she earned,” Boldon said. “To have 100 steals your first two years of college basketball is incredible.”
Hooks led the Bobcats on both ends of the court, finishing with 18 points, three rebounds and four steals.
But even with Hooks leading the way, MTSU kept the game close. So close that Boldon had no idea how to feel after Hooks gave up a wide open layup to give the Bobcats a 4 point lead with 16 seconds remaining,
“I liked her confidence that she thought she was going to make two free throws,” Boldon said. “I would generally think ‘take the layup.’”
Although Boldon couldn’t put his finger on Hooks’ decision, he didn’t hesitate to put the ball back in her hands to win the game.
“Sometimes you just gotta let players be players,” Boldon said. “Sometimes you gotta give them a chance to be themselves.”