The last time the College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats took the floor for a game was 11 months ago. Soon after clinching another A.I.I. Conference championship and an automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament, the Lady Bobcats saw their season come to an abrupt end due to concerns over COVID 19. Push the (not so) fast forward button and the 2021 season is now underway.
The Lady Bobcats hit the road to Crowley’s Ridge College in Paragould, AR Tuesday night for their opener and came home with a 68-57 win.
The Lady Bobcats wasted no time getting back into the swing of things and used a combination of aggressive offense and tenacious defense to jump out to a commanding early lead. After an 0 for 10 start, the Lady Pioneers put their first two points on the board with 2:39 left in the 1st quarter and the Lady Bobcats led 15-2. The two teams traded jabs the rest of the quarter and the Lady Bobcats led 20-8 at the quarter break.
Lady Pioneer Octavia Lowery hit a three to start the second quarter and cut the lead to nine. That was the boost the Lady Pioneers needed to lift their confidence and get them back into contention. The game went back and forth throughout the second quarter as the Lady Bobcats couldn’t seem to maintain more than a ten point advantage. On a bucket by Jordan Wersinger with 6:37 remaining, C of O held their largest lead of the quarter, 28-14. That lead would be short lived however, as the Lady Pioneers would not go away. With 2:45 left in the period, CRC’c Octavia Lowery’s mid-range jumper put the Lady Pioneers within six, 32-26. The Lady Cats answered with free throws by Grace Steiger and a driving basket and pair of free throws by Jordan Wersinger to head to the locker room with an 11 point lead 37-26.
The third quarter was a mirror image of the second and the Lady Cats and Lady Pioneers went back and forth over the next ten minutes. With a pair of free throws at the 4:32 mark, Annie Noah put the Lady Cats back on top by 14. The Lady Pioneers were able to cut the lead to ten, 46-36 before Kyra Hardesty connected on a three to give C of O a 51-38 lead. A Pioneer three on the next trip down made it 51-41 heading into the final quarter of play.
The fourth quarter was much the same as the previous two. The Lady Cats worked to pull away. The Pioneers fought back. The fourth quarter spread grew to as many as 14 at the 6:00 mark when Madi Braden scored off a Pioneer turnover. With 1:18 on the clock, a basket inside and a free throw by Grace Steiger gave the Lady Cats a 16-point lead, 68-52. The Lady Pioneers however, were able to score five unanswered points as time ran down, but it was too little, too late and the Lady Bobcats secured a 68-57 win.
After the game Coach Mullis stated, “We are grateful to be playing and I am proud of our team for finding a way to win after such a long layoff. I’m excited to watch this team grow and gel together the more we play.”
The Lady Bobcats had three in double figures as Jordan Wersinger led the way with 20, Kayley Frank with 11, and Grace Steiger added 10. Annie Noah was two points shy of a double-double with 8 points and 11 rebounds. Michelle Gabani added 5 points and 13 rebounds while Kyra Hardesty and Madi Braden added 7 each to the cause.
The Lady Bobcats will be back in action Thursday at 5PM as they head to Bartlesville, Oklahoma to take on Oklahoma Wesleyan.