Despite losing in the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament, the Cardinals’ fight all season was enough to make head coach Brady Sallee proud.
No. 6 seeded Ball State Women’s Basketball (14-11, 12-8 MAC) fell to No. 3 Ohio (14-7, 11-6 MAC) 61-59 in a game that ultimately came down to the final buzzer.
“What a ballgame,” Sallee said. “It was two teams pouring it out. There is a lot of heart on that floor. There are a lot of good players and a lot of good basketball. I am through the roof proud of this basketball team. Not for just how hard they just played in this game but for being the only team up here to play all 20 games.”
Ball State went into the half with a 27-23 lead, but the third quarter was where the Bobcats pulled ahead and didn’t look back. They won the third quarter 26-17, which was enough to keep them ahead in the final quarter.
Guard Cierra Hooks led the Bobcats with 21 points, 11 rebounds and four steals. Despite Hooks leading the Bobcats in scoring, senior forward Oshlynn Brown thought Ball State did a good job defending her. Ball State held Hooks to 8-of-28 shooting and five second-half points.
“I thought we handled [Cierra Hooks] really well,” Brown said. “She usually gets 30 or more points. The defensive plan was to let her shoot the three because that is not a part of her game. We frustrated her so [Erica] Johnson had to step up for that.”
Johnson was scoreless in the first half and scored 19 points and five 3-pointers in the second half. Questions were surrounding Johnson’s status before the game due to an injury, but Sallee said the Cardinals were prepared for her to play.
“I am no dummy,” Sallee said. “I knew she was going to play. We were prepared for her. She hit some tough shots which we know she is capable of. You have to tip your hat to her for hitting those shots. She is a great player.”
Ball State junior forward Thelma Dis Agustsdottir led the Cardinals with 21 points after missing her first four 3-pointers. She made the next seven attempts, six of which came in the second half.
“She makes shots,” Sallee said. “She puts so much pressure on the defense. When you have a player like [Oshlynn Brown] who demands double and triple teams and gets the tar beat out of her every single night.They have to make decisions of either coming off of Thelma [Dis Augustsdottir] to double Osh or do they stay on Thelma to prevent her from making shots.”
The Cardinals also had a contribution from junior forward Essence Booker, who scored 11 points. Brown believes having players help her out in penetration helped Ball State succeed at points during the season.
“They impacted the season a lot,” Brown said. “Teams double and triple-team me when I have the ball in the post. For them to be able to shoot the shot when I kick it out to them and them just being ready.”
Finally, Brown put up 12 points and a school-record of 22 rebounds in what might be her final game as a Cardinal. Sallee said her impact had been felt all year long on and off of the court.
“I love [Oshlynn Brown],” Sallee said. “What she has become as a young woman, there is no nets or trophies that could match that. That is why I do this. She is an absolute stud. It is easy to see on the court. If you could see it in the locker room, the practice floor and who she’s become.”
Sallee could only think of one word when describing his relationship with Brown.
“The one word I can think of is love, “Sallee said. “That is as deep as it can get.”
Contact Ian Hansen with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ianh_2.