Jordan Dartis stood at the free throw line in front of a silent crowd in The Convo and embraced the moment

He was there to shoot a pair of free throws to cement a win in his final regular season game in his home arena. Dartis, the Bobcats’ all-time 3-point leader, had made plenty of clutch shots throughout his five years at Ohio. 

His last pair of shots Friday might’ve been his easiest. 

Dartis, Ohio’s oldest player at 23 years old and biggest leader, was alone when he was at the line — Kent State committed a technical foul in the final seconds that sent him there. He was the only player standing on Ohio’s half of the court.

The moment couldn’t have had a better script. If it was Dartis’ last game in The Convo, it ended with a quiet spotlight he deserved.

“Everything just zones out,” Dartis said. “I was just embracing those little moments like that. It definitely brightened my day.”

Dartis only made one of his two shots, but it didn’t matter. The Bobcats still won the game 76-69 against the Golden Flashes, which puts Ohio a step closer to securing a first-round home game in the Mid-American Conference Tournament.

That wasn’t the main storyline Friday, though. It was senior night, which called for a celebration of the career of Dartis. He fired up the crowd with a trio of quick 3-pointers and finished with 17 points.

Dartis has endured the hardships of a coaching change. He’s watched top players transfer from the program. He’s also fought through a slew of injuries in his time in Athens. 

Yet he was still the most respected player for Ohio this season. The Bobcats opened with eight freshmen and a much different look from what he was used to when he joined the program in 2015, but Dartis never flinched.

He didn’t have to return for his final season, either. Dartis had to take a redshirt to save his final season of eligibility after he underwent surgery for two painful hip injuries he endured through his junior year. He didn’t play last year when the Bobcats fell apart and opted not to re-sign the contract of Saul Phillips, who recruited Dartis from Newark High School.

Dartis could’ve ended his basketball career there. Instead, he returned and helped pilot Ohio to better results — the Bobcats earned their seventh MAC win Friday and surpassed their conference win total from last season.

So, when Dartis hugged coach Jeff Boals at the end of his walk from the pregame senior ceremony, Boals held on to him. He needed to give him a special message.

“I told him I love him,” Boals said. “I know what he’s feeling with injuries, the mental pain and anguish he’s been through. He’s been a big reason why we’ve been able to turn this thing the right way.”

Dartis might have a chance to play in The Convo again.

The Bobcats have two road regular season games left against Akron and Miami and might need to win both to secure a first-round MAC Tournament game in The Convo. Ohio finished February with a 5-3 record, though, and is playing its best basketball at the perfect time.

Dartis is a big reason why. 

He scored double-digit points Friday for the fourth time this month. He also averaged 35 minutes per game during that time, which is the most he’s played in a month all season.

That’s a lot to ask from a player who received two hip surgeries last spring. But Dartis was never going to give up on this program.

So when Dartis stood at the free-throw line in front of a crowd at The Convo for — maybe — one final time, he could only feel thankful.

He’ll always remember his storied career with Ohio. The program and fans will always remember him, too.

“I can feel the energy in (The Convo) without anyone in there,” Dartis said. “Being able to play in front of this crowd day in and day out was a blessing. 

“I’ll cherish The Convo for the rest of my life.”

@anthonyp_2

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