Key three pointers down the stretch for the Warriors of Bacone College resulted in the College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats first loss of the season Saturday afternoon. The Lady Bobcats led most of the contest, but struggled to put away a scrappy Bacone team who stepped on the court ready to give the Lady Bobcats all they could handle.
The Lady Cats jumped on top early with an Annie Noah mid-range bucket from the left corner. The Warriors would counter with a free throw and a basket of their own, and back and forth we go. The Warriors would take the lead 6-4, before a Jordan Wersinger two would tie it for the Lady Cats. Wersinger would give the Lady Cats the lead with two free throws at the 5:20 mark and the Lady Cats seemed to be in control from there. The Lady Cats would close out the quarter outscoring the Warriors 18-8 the rest of the way and lead 24-15 at the break.
The Warriors would go on a 6-2 run to start the second quarter and build some momentum with six minutes gone in the frame. Baskets by Katie Mayes, Annie Noah, and Jordan Wersinger would help the Lady Cats shut down the run by the Warriors but the tide seemed to be turning to the home team. A three by Bacone’s Za’Riah Griffin with 2:51 to play in the half would cut the Lady Cat lead to five, 31-26. The Lady Cats would answer with baskets by Mayes and Wersinger and with a Kayley Frank three sandwiched in-between, the Lady Cats would lead at the half 38-26.
Even with a twelve point advantage for the Lady Bobcats, the feel of the game was strangely leaning in favor of the warriors. The Lady Cats could not get in a rhythm and the Warriors intensity continued to be a challenge to overcome.
The two teams continued the back and forth battle until the 6:25 mark in the third period. The Lady Cats could not hold off a charge by the Warriors and over the next three minutes, the lead had been cut to 46-41, Lady Cats. The final three minutes of the quarter would belong to the Lady Cats as Grace Steiger hit a shot in the paint and sank two free throws. Katie Mayes mixed in another basket and the Lady Cats would build their lead back to 11 after three, 56-47.
The fourth quarter was all Bacone. A few baskets and a couple of threes that C of O did not answer and the Warrior had closed the gap. With 5:12 to play it was a one point game, 58-57. Kyra Hardesty drained a much needed three to make it 61-57, with 4:54 to play. The momentum swung back to the Lady Cats but it was short-lived. The Lady Cats could not get a shot, or a free throw, to fall over the next several minutes and Bacone would take their first lead since early in the game. With 2:17 remaining in regulation, an Illeana French three made it 62-61 Warriors. The Lady Cats had a couple of opportunities to regain the lead but the shots would not fall. With 53 seconds on the clock, Michelle Gabani sank two free throws to put C of O back in the lead, 63-62. Kayley Frank hit a free throw with 11 seconds on the clock. 64-62 and the Lady Cats needed one stop for the win. The Warriors however, were not finished. With the momentum clearly in their favor, Elise Gonzalez put up a shot at the buzzer that banked off the glass and in. 64-64 at the end of regulation.
The teams would trade baskets in the extra frame but the Warriors still carried the momentum. Trailing by two, 69-67, the Lady Cats Kayley Frank would score in the paint to tie the score at 69 at the 2:35 mark. The Warriors would answer with a three by Laila Flores and take the lead 72-69. The Lady Cats would have three opportunities to tie the score from beyond the arc over the final two minutes, but they could not get the shots to fall. With several defensive stops down the stretch, and two missed free throws by the Warriors, the Lady Cats had one more opportunity to even the score. With four seconds remaining they were able to get off a three as the clock ran down but it was not to be. The shot rimmed out and the Lady Cat had fallen to the warriors, 72-69.
It was a disappointing loss for the Lady Cats as Coach Mullis stated following the game. "I am incredibly disappointed in our effort. This loss is 100% on us. Bacone came ready to play and outworked us. They deserved to win. There are many things that are out of our control, but effort is not one of them. We will directly address our effort and passion for performing well and will be better for it. I am embarrassed, as this is not who we are. I am the head coach and the responsibility falls on me. We will go to work to fix our mistakes. I still believe in our team. This is a hard lesson to learn, but we will be better for it in the long run."
Jordan Wersinger led all scorers with 22. Kayley Frank added 12, Annie Noah – 10, Grace Steiger, Katie Mayes, and Kyra Hardesty each added 6, Michelle Gabani – 5, and Stevi Jones – 2.
The Lady Cats move to 4-1 on the season and will face John Brown University in a 5:30 contest at Keeter Gymnasium on Monday, February 15.