From Arkansas, to Oklahoma, to Illinois, to Kansas - the College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats have made their way to the surrounding states for road games over the past two weeks. While this is no easy task for a team that is just starting their season, the Lady Cats have battled through and found a way to come out on top in each of the early season contests.
Late last week Coach Becky Mullis was able to add a mid-week game with Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas. The Wildcats had won two of their last three and had defeated one other nationally ranked team coming into the Thursday night contest. A big and physical team, Baker was set to be a challenge for the Lady Cats from tipoff to the final buzzer.
The first quarter of action was very similar to the start of the three previous games for the Lady Cats. Ten minutes of back and forth action between the home team and the visiting Lady Bobcats. The Wildcats wasted no time in setting the stage as their leading scorer, Abby Bird, put them on the board with only 12 seconds gone off the clock. The Lady Bobcats answered with an Annie Noah basket off of a pass by Jordan Wersinger and the battle was on. C of O would not see their first lead until the 7:11 mark when Kyra Hardesty hit a deep three to make it 7-4, Lady Cats. A 5-0 run mid-way through the quarter would give the Lady cats a 14-9 lead but they couldn’t seem to pull away. A determined Wildcat squad would continue to hang tough and the Lady Cats would hold a narrow 17-14 advantage at the first intermission.
The second quarter would soon dictate a different style of play. Over the next ten minutes, 17 fouls would be called and both teams would need to make a series of adjustments. Several Lady Cats were charged with two fouls and one with three. Combine the early foul trouble with cold shooting and a few crucial turnovers - and you have the beginnings of a recipe for disaster. The Lady Bobcats bench would have to step up in order to keep the game in check. And step up they did. With 8:57 left on the clock in the second quarter, Katie Mayes would hit a deep three from the left side to give the Lady Cats a 20-16 lead. Two free throws on the Wildcat end would cut the lead to two but Lady Cat freshman, Madi Braden would answer with a three of her own and it was 23-18, Lady Cats. The foul situation and cold shooting for both teams seemed to put a freeze on any scoring runs. The teams would trade baskets and free throws throughout the quarter and with 5:03 remaining, Baker would regain the lead, 26-25. Things began to look a little rocky for the Lady Cats as the Wildcats put together a mini run and led 32-27, with 2:18 left in the half. Tough defense by the Lady Cats shut down the scoring for the Wildcats and set up a 5-0 run to end the half. Madi Braden drained another three and Jordan Wersinger drove for a layup to tie the game at 32 heading into the locker room.
The third quarter was controlled by Baker as they maintained a slim lead through the first nine minutes. The Lady Cats were able to keep pace with the Wildcats but they could not find a way to get over the hump to regain the lead. Trailing 47-43 late in the third, Kayley Frank sank a long three from the left wing to bring the Lady Cats back within one. With 56 seconds remaining in the quarter, Frank was fouled inside and would hit two free throws to put the Lady Cats on top, 48-47.
As the final ten minutes began, so did the back and forth action. Baker was able to regain the lead 51-50 with 8:34 left to play. Two more points for the Wildcats would make it 53-50. A Jordan Wersinger free throw and a basket by Annie Noah with 6:18 remaining would even the score at 53. Madi Braden drained another three at the 5:47 mark that would would put the Lady Cats in the lead for good. The battle would continue over the next five minutes. The Wildcats would score, the Lady Cats would answer. As the time began to dwindle in the final frame, it was evident the Wildcats plan was to make the Lady Cats win the game from the free throw line. With :33 seconds remaining, Kyra Hardesty drained two free throws to make it 69-65, Lady Cats. After a Wildcat basket, Michelle Gabani hit a free throw and with with 27 seconds left, the Lady Cats held a slim 70-67 lead. Another bucket by Baker was followed by a quick foul to send Kyra Hardesty to the line. Hardesty connected on one of two and the Lady Cats were clinging to a 71-69 lead with 19 seconds left to play in regulation. The Wildcats would have a chance to tie but the shot went off the rim. Kayley Frank was fouled on the rebound and she would go to the line to seal the win. With :03 remaining, Frank’s two free throws would make it a two possession game and the clock would run out with the Lady Cats holding on to win, 73-69.
Commenting after the game, Coach Mullis stated, I’m really proud of our team for our come from behind victory tonight. We settled down in the second half and ran better half-court offense. We got stops down the stretch and hit our free throws in order to win the game. There are certainly areas for us to improve, but I’m thankful to get a road win against a big, physical team.”
The Lady Cats were led by Jordan Wersinger with 23 points and eight rebounds. Madi Braden added 13, Kyra Hardesty-11, Kayley Frank-10, Annie Noah-7, Katie Mayes-5, and Michelle Gabani and Grace Steiger with two each.
The Lady Cats will be back in action this Saturday, February 13 as they travel to Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma for a 1:00 PM start.
PC: Steve Rackley/Flat Top Photos