It was a bittersweet night in The Convo. Ohio capped the regular season with its 14th win at home, but it still faced a big loss. Ohio may have won 92-58, but three seniors — Dwight Wilson III, Ben Roderick and DeVon Baker — played their final game in Athens.
As they subbed out for the last time in the second half, there was nothing but cheers for the Bobcats. They’d done so much in their respective careers. Each player was showered with love as they walked down the bench to their seats.
Ohio coach Jeff Boals shared a special moment with each player. He’d seen them grow over various time spans, and it was hard to see their last moments at Ohio. Boals was sad, but no more than he was proud.
“Oh that wasn’t consoling,” Boals said of his hug with Wilson. “That was a big bear hug. I’m proud of that kid. I love that kid.”
Wilson has been with Boals for three years. The Tallahassee, Florida, native came to Ohio from James Madison ahead of his senior season, and made an immediate impact.
It’s not rare for Wilson to have a 20-point game or to snag every rebound he lays eyes on. He’s a major part of Ohio’s strategy on both sides of the ball. His presence was missed in 2021-22, but that means it's appreciated now more than ever.
After the game, Wilson sat next to Roderick and the emotion set in his eyes. He’d dropped 20 points in the pulverization of Bowling Green, but the thought of his last game at home was starting to creep in.
“It was very emotional. This is actually my mom’s first game in The Convo. She’s never been here,” Wilson said. “That was pretty emotional for me, for her to see the love that we get on a nightly basis here. It was extra motivation going into the game to play well.”
Roderick dealt with the same fate. He was a part of Boals’ first recruiting class and was the first senior to stay all four years with Boals. Roderick said he would never take back his decision to come to Ohio. He’s forever grateful for his time in Athens.
“It’s probably been the longest day of the year for me, just trying to get to the game,” Roderick said.
The Powell, Ohio, native tried to focus on winning the game because he wanted to be able to celebrate with Wilson, Baker and the team for more than one reason. He also wanted the win because he knew that his loved ones were in attendance and it would be a way to show his gratitude for their support. Roderick ended the night with six rebounds and two points.
The last senior, Baker, hasn’t been in Athens as long as the other two, but his presence has been felt nonetheless since he transferred in from Tulane ahead of this season.
Baker helps steer Ohio’s ship when it starts to lose its course. Multiple times this season, Baker has come in and done damage control for Ohio. The guard from Dayton, Ohio, has only been with Ohio for a season, but he’s made the most of his time. Baker ended his last home game with five points and four rebounds.
The team-first nature of the Bobcats shined during the game as its seniors went to work on the court. The Bobcats jumped and cheered each time something went well and spread words of encouragement each time something didn’t go as planned.
From the moment Wilson dunked in the first half, to when the seniors shook hands in The Convo for the last time, Ohio radiated nothing but warmth. It was partially because of the 21-0 run it hit in the first half, but it was also because Ohio had given its seniors the best sendoff gift: a redemption win.
Though, the Bobcats aren’t ready for their last hurrah. They’ve still got one more guaranteed game in Cleveland at the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
Wilson and Roderick have the chance to earn their second championship, and the rest of the Bobcats are behind them.
“We’ve got a chance to do something really special, and for me and B-Rod to be able to go out on top, nobody would be able to take that away from us,” Wilson said. “We’ll be gone, but that’s something that I want to be able to say five-10 years down the line, we did.”