BOWLING GREEN — There were nearly five minutes left in the Bowling Green State University women’s basketball team’s 73-52 win over Ohio on Sunday, and coach Jennifer Roos walked to the end of her team’s bench.
“She said to me, ‘Girl, you better know the plays,’ and I kind of smiled,” said BG’s Simone Eli.
Soon after that the Genoa High School product entered the game, her first action this year after a knee surgery threatened to ruin Eli’s senior season before it began. While she missed all five shots she took, getting back on the court was reward enough.
“I’m probably the first person to come into the media room after going 0-for-5 in the game,” Eli said. “But I couldn’t have been happier to get the time that I did.
“Then it meant so much for the fans to stand up and cheer for me. I couldn’t have asked for a better reaction from them.”
That’s because the senior’s return to the court was anything but guaranteed.
“This is a kid who had a spiral fracture of her finger [as a junior] and had more than one surgery on it,” Roos said. “And she delayed a knee surgery to continue to play, but [the pain] became so bad she had to have surgery.
“And she has continued to work hard with her rehab in the hopes that she would be able to get on the court again.”
Eli joined Anthony Wayne grad Allison Papenfuss, Chrissy Steffen, and Danielle Havel as the four seniors honored before the Falcons’ easy win in their final regular-season home game.
Steffen and Papenfuss each finished in double figures with 14 and 10 points, respectively, as BG improved to 19-9 and 10-5 in the Mid-American Conference. Alexis Rogers had 13 points, and Bailey Cairnduff added 10.
Shavon Robinson scored 14 points to lead Ohio (6-21, 1-14 MAC).
The game itself was decided early as Bowling Green scored the game’s first 12 points.
“Any time you play on Senior Day, emotions run high,” Roos said. “Seniors will either step up or they are overwhelmed by emotions and you start out slowly.
“I was very pleased that our team came into the game and set the tone in the first four minutes. Everyone got a touch, we had a handful of good looks inside and outside, and those four minutes were the big difference in the game.”
The Falcons led 44-23 at halftime thanks to 69.2 percent shooting, including a 5-for-8 effort on 3-pointers. Bowling Green’s performance in the second period was not as clean as it shot just 30 percent from the field and had nine turnovers compared to three for the Bobcats.
“The 18 turnovers [in the game] are not acceptable,” Roos said. “But we did outrebound them and went to the free throw line more. I’ll always be happy with those two stats."
Still BG led by as many as 29 midway through the second period and never was challenged.
“It was really important to get this win," Papenfuss said. “It was important to get a comfortable win. There’s a chance we may play [Ohio] in the tournament, so we wanted to get a convincing win too.”
BG’s four seniors now have a 98-28 record in their time at the school and have a shot at becoming the eighth senior class to reach 100 victories.
“When you look at the careers of Chrissy Steffen and Danielle Havel and Allison Papenfuss and Simone Eli, there’s just not enough words out there to thank them for their efforts throughout their four years,” Roos said. “They’re great people. They’ve been great leaders."
Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.