The College of the Ozarks Bobcats lost in heart breaking fashion on a buzzer beating put-back at the A.I.I. Conference Tournament to the host school Lincoln College (Ill.). While the 72-71 loss is a tough one to swallow, the Bobcats can find respite in their NAIA DII National Championship berth clinched the day prior.
The entire game was back-and-forth, featuring four ties and 12 lead changes. Late in first half, the Lincoln College Lynx nailed a three-pointer to take a 28-25 lead. The Bobcats zipped the ball back up the floor to Treydon Rackley. Rackley drove hard to the paint, jump-stopped, and dished the ball to Ayden Stone for a layup. Rackley would finish the game with 16 points and Stone would record a double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds.
With just under two minutes to play, Klay Barton would get going by first drawing a foul. Converting both free throws, C of O took a 29-28 lead. Before the end of the half, Klay would add a deep three-pointer and subsequently finish at the hoop to give the Bobcats a 34-31 lead at the break. For the game, Barton would tally 15 points, five rebounds, three assists, and a steal.
For the first half, College of the Ozarks shot 12 for 29 (41.4%) from the field, while taking just six three-point shots. Of those six three-pointers, they converted three. Lincoln College countered 11 for 28 (39.3%) from the field including 4 for 14 (28.6%) from downtown.
Midway through the second half, a 10-0 Bobcat run which featured a Brandt Cochran floater in the lane would make the score 50-41 and force the Lynx to call a timeout. The nine-point lead would be the largest either team would hold. For the senior Cochran, the bucket would be part of his team high 17 points, to go along with six assists, five rebounds, and a steal.
After the timeout, Lincoln College would answer with a 15-4 run, to go up by two points with seven minutes remaining, forcing a Bobcat timeout.
The remainder of the game would consist of the teams trading buckets and the lead at a quickened pace. At one point, the Bobcats would scramble to gain three offensive rebounds on a single possession to regain the lead. A kick-out three-pointer from Klay Barton to Andrew Mitchell would give the Bobcats a five-point advantage with three minutes remaining, 68-63.
The Lynx would once again strike back with a run, capped-off by a shot from distance to take a 70-68 lead with 45-seconds remaining. Following a Bobcat timeout, Andrew Mitchell connected on a deep-three pointer to give C of O a 71-70 lead with just 7.4 seconds remaining and forcing the Lynx to use their final timeout. Unfortunately, a Lynx miss would lead to a buzzer-beating put-back, defeating the Bobcats 72-71.
For the game, the Bobcats shot 26 for 63 (41.3%) from the field. Despite a couple big three-pointers late, C of O shot just 4 for 13 (30.8%) from distance in the second half. Lincoln College shot 26 for 60 (43.3%) for the game. College of the Ozarks won the rebounding and turnover battles, 41-37 and 12-13 respectively.
For more stats, please visit: https://tinyurl.com/rpm5cv4
Following the game, three Bobcats were awarded All-Tournament Team honors: Ayden Stone, Andrew Mitchell, and Brandt Cochran.
Up next for the Bobcats is the NAIA National Tournament, which will be held March 11 through March 17 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.