There’s too many great CeCe Hooks moments to just pick one.
The senior guard has hit game winners, set school records and won plenty of games in her four years in Athens, but Wednesday night will always stand out amongst the rest.
Led by Hooks’ 28 points, Ohio came back down 11 with just over two minutes to play to stun Buffalo 84-81 at The Convo. The win was the first time Ohio defended home court against the Bulls since 2017 and was the ultimate revenge for a loss in the 2019 Mid-American Conference Tournament finals.
“They (Buffalo) were doing a lot of trash talking,” Hooks joked postgame. “Now I know they feel really bad.”
Ohio had battled back through Buffalo’s toughness and trash talk all game. After trailing by 10 in the first quarter, the Bobcats battled back to tie it at 38 by halftime. Trading back-and-forth through the third quarter, the Bobcats battled back to take a slim two-point lead into the fourth quarter.
But after giving up a 15-0 run to start the fourth quarter, there appeared to be no more battle in the Bobcats. Star guard Erica Johnson was down to her last foul. Buffalo’s top player and the MAC’s leading scorer Dyaisha Fair was doing whatever she wanted and it seemed like so close would not be good enough for the Bobcats.
Ohio wasn’t going to quit. But down 11 with 2:19 left to play, grit wasn’t going to be enough. Ohio was going to need a miracle. It had something better.
Following a Johnson 3-pointer, Hooks stole the ball and made another layup to trim the lead to six. Hooks would have to trim the lead again moments later after a pair of Buffalo free throws. At this point, Ohio’s down six with 1:35.
Hooks’ teammates could see how hard she was pushing for a chance to pull out the win. There was no way she could do it herself. The next minute and a half was the stuff of legend.
First, Caitlyn Kroll drives to the rim and squeaks in a layup.
Buffalo 81, Ohio 75.
Then, Hooks makes another layup off a Buffalo turnover
Buffalo 81, Ohio 77.
After that, Kaylee Bambule (remember that name) stole the ball and dished it to Madi Mace before she was fouled, heading to the line.
Shot number one... good. Shot number two...good.
Buffalo 81, Ohio 79.
But was there enough time?
After a tipped pass off of the foot of Fair, yes, yes there was.
The Bobcats had 18 seconds left to draw something up. The plan was for Hooks to drive the lane and score a layup. She trusted her gut when she saw Bambule sitting in the corner.
“I knew she was gonna hit it,” Hooks said.
Ohio 82, Buffalo 81.
A 9-0 run to grab the lead with 11 seconds to go. Could Ohio really pull off one of the greatest comebacks in program history? They would need one more stop to secure it. With the game on the line the Bulls gave the ball to Hanna Hall, the same player that gave Hooks fits in the MAC Tournament final.
Hall threw up a shot and it went in before rolling out. A sea of blue waited eagerly for it. Buffalo had out-rebounded Ohio 49-34 up to that point.
That was one rebound they weren’t going to get. When Hooks came down with the ball everyone in The Convo knew the Bobcats had done it. On a night where CeCe Hooks was everything she needed to be, her teammates had her back.
“It was so sweet,” Hooks said. “We’ve been having a hard time playing as a team sometimes but these last couple of games I feel like everyone is coming in and bringing that something.”