Only five seconds had passed in the fourth quarter and Erica Johnson needed a timeout. As Ohio coach Bob Boldon looked confused toward his star guard, his face quickly shifted into panic. Boldon told Johnson to head over to the sideline so she could reconvene with her team. Johnson stood in the middle of the court and shook her head.
Moments later, Johnson slowly limped her way off the court, past her teammates and into the locker room.
Johnson would not return to the game. She stood on the sidelines in street clothing as Ohio cruised to an 85-55 win over Akron on Saturday afternoon at The Convo. Boldon said postgame that he didn’t know what the severity of her injury was, but that it was priority number one to find out.
“She’s (Johnson) been battling with knee pain all year,” Boldon said. “We usually get through the game before we have to start this. We’ll see what it’s like and see if we can get her ready for Wednesday.”
It’s been a brutal season injury wise for Johnson and the entire Ohio (9-5, 7-4 Mid American Conference) team. Johnson’s knee problems have hindered her all season and it doesn’t help that she’s only a few games removed from the concussion she received in the team’s win over Buffalo on Jan. 20.
Alongside Johnson’s injuries, the Bobcats are down another starter. Sophomore guard Peyton Guice tore her ACL and meniscus on Jan. 23 at Western Michigan. The Bobcats already aren’t one of the deepest teams in the MAC, and their rotation is getting even smaller.
Somehow the Bobcats have stayed afloat in their quest thanks to CeCe Hooks. Hooks has averaged 30.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists the last five games. Against the Zips she led all scorers with 31 points.
Hooks is no stranger to carrying a heavy offensive load for the Bobcats. But after three consecutive comeback wins and a nail biting loss to Eastern Michigan on Wednesday, Hooks appreciated Saturday’s blowout win and would appreciate a break even more.
“You don’t understand,” Hooks joked. “It would be lovely right about now. Our bodies are wore out. I can definitely say that. And we’re just going to keep pushing through and fighting with what we have.”
What Ohio has is a core that’s ready and willing to step up. Caitlyn Kroll finished the game with a near double-double (eight points, 10 rebounds), Kaylee Bambule had multiple defensive stops as she continues to find her footing as Guice’s replacement and redshirt freshman Madi Mace (five points, five rebounds) continued to show why she’s looked at to be a future cornerstone of the program.
But even with all that, the Bobcats need Johnson to be at full strength. Wednesday’s game against Kent State would be a big one if it happens. The Golden Flashes beat Ohio 84-80 on Dec.11, but haven’t played a game since Jan. 9 due to COVID-issues within the program.
Ohio is prepared to take the court on Wednesday, but at this point a day off would not be the worst thing. Boldon says if the game is cancelled with enough time, however, he’d like to find a school that’s willing to scrimmage.
“Putting that into action would be very difficult because you have to find somebody that has the same mindset that’s within a reasonable travel distance,” Boldon said. “That would be the plan, but I don’t know if we’d be able to pull that off.”
While a scrimmage could be beneficial to Ohio, so would a few days of rest and recovery. Not just for the Bobcat’s bodies, but also their minds. Johnson is expected to play next week, but how long can you go before the engine finally burns out?
“She’s gonna get through it, “ Hooks said. “I have faith in her. We’re just going to pray that everything gets better because we definitely need her.”