College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats cruised to victory in their third win of the weekend to claim the A.I.I. Conference Championship title on Sunday afternoon! The Lady Bobcats defeated No. 2 seed Indiana University Northwest by a score of 88-65.
The Lady Cats opened the game taking a four-point lead (6-2) early in the first quarter. Only one made basket over a four-minute stretch, however, found the Lady Cats trailing by two until Aleksei Smith cashed in on two free throws to tie the game at 10. The two teams battled it out in the closing two minutes of the quarter, with IUNW leading at the buzzer, 17-15.
The Redhawks opened the second quarter with five quick points to take a seven-point lead, but CofO regrouped and chipped away to knot up the game at 24. The two teams battled back and forth to another tie at 33 apiece before the Lady Bobcats went on an 11-2 run to close out the half with a nine-point advantage at 44-35.
The Lady Cats shot 14-23 for 60.9% from the field, as Abby Oliver led the first-half scoring with 11 points. IUNW went 14-31 (45.2%) and outrebounded the Lady Cats 14-11.
In the third quarter, the Lady Bobcats’ shooting continued to shine, as they extended their lead to 18 points, hitting 9 of their 15 field goal attempts, against 6-15 for the Redhawks. CofO followed up in the fourth with steady shooting, including eight points from senior Madi Brethower, to win by 23, 88-65.
Cass Johnson led all scorers with 22 points, netting six of eleven three-pointers. Abby Oliver scored 20 points, draining 5 treys, and Kelsie Cleeton added yet another double-double to her season collection, scoring 19 points and pulling down a game-leading 14 rebounds. Cleeton also dished eight assists and nabbed two steals. The Lady Cats nailed 18 three-pointers in the game on 35 attempts, compared to j5-17 for IUNW. Overall, the Lady Bobcats shot 56.6% (30-53) from the field compared to 44.4% (28-63) by the Redhawks. IUNW held the edge in rebounding 31-27.
At the close of the event, four Lady Cats were recognized for their tournament play. Cassidy Johnson (51 pts, 17.0 ppg), Abby Oliver (48 pts., 16.0 ppg), and Madi Brethower (26 pts., 18 reb., 7 assists) were named to the All-Tournament Team. Kelsie Cleeton was named the A.I.I. Championship Tournament Most Outstanding Player (12.67 ppg, 11.67 rpg, 8.33 apg).
Sunday’s win takes the Lady Bobcats’ record to 29-3 on the season and punches their ticket for the NAIA DII National Championship tournament on March 6-12 in Sioux City, Iowa.