As CeCe Hooks drove to the basket, Kaylee Bambule waited patiently in the corner. Soon enough, Hooks was surrounded by Buffalo defenders. Hooks passed the ball out and Bambule put up her first shot of the game. As the ball was in the air and the seconds ticked, everyone in The Convo held a collective breath.
Bambule already knew what was about to happen.
The redshirt junior sank the game-winning shot in Ohio’s 84-81 thrilling comeback win over Buffalo on Wednesday night.
“I knew it was going in,” Bambule said. “It was just like a practice shot; I knew that was going in.”
Buffalo (8-4, 5-2 Mid-American Conference) opened the fourth quarter with a 15-0 run. At that point, it looked as if the Bobcats (7-4, 5-3 MAC) were out of the game.
The hopes for an Ohio comeback were all but dead with just over two minutes left to play and an impossible 11-point deficit to overcome.
Instead of accepting a loss and a collapse in the fourth quarter, the Bobcats kept trying to get back in it. Freshman Madi Mace told the team over and over that they could still win it, and the team listened.
The Bobcats forced six turnovers in the final two minutes and went on a run. The final turnover came with 33 seconds left, and Bambule checked into the game with the purpose of hitting a big shot.
To no surprise to her or her teammates, she delivered.
“She’s a knock-down shooter; we know what Kaylee’s capable of,” Hooks said. “Whether she gets five or 10 minutes on the court, we know that she’s going to come in ready to shoot and knock down a big shot for us.”
Did she ever.
Bambule’s role on the team is to shoot the ball. She comes in when Ohio needs a 3-pointer and plays sparing minutes. Bambule hadn’t taken a single shot all game leading up to her game-winner, and she hadn’t even played in the second half until she checked in with 33 seconds left.
“The last shot she took before that was, what, 45 minutes before that in halftime warmups,” head coach Bob Boldon said. “She’s taken that shot a thousand times, but she’s never taken it after sitting on the bench for 45 minutes. I looked at her and asked ‘do you want this,’ and she said yeah.”
Boldon asked her in the timeout prior to the shot if she wanted to take it and she said yes, as a top shooter does.
Bambule isn’t a stranger to taking the last shot to win the game. She’s made game winners before in high school, but never before in college. This one meant more to her than any other.
“I’ve hit game-winners before, but this one is a little more special,” Bambule said. “It’s at a higher level against a really great team. That was awesome.”
She had a similar opportunity just a week ago against Ball State just a week ago to tie the game and send it into overtime. She missed that one and it weighed on her heavily, Boldon said.
“It bothers her that she missed that shot against Ball State,” Boldon said. “That legitimately bothers her, and she said she wasn’t going to miss another one.”
In most games, the team’s hero is the leading scorer. A player that takes a lot of shots and makes most of them.
Bambule only needed one.