On back to back days, the College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats scorched the nets at Keeter Gymnasium and added a couple of wins to their 2021 resume. Gearing up for the Association of Independent Institutions Conference Tournament next weekend, the Lady Cats set the tone by putting 80 or more points on the board on consecutive nights.
After an 85-35 win on Thursday, the Lady Cats hosted a John Brown University team that had won five straight coming into Friday’s contest. Coach Mullis and her crew knew they would have to step up their game and be ready for a different type of contest than the night before.
From the tip, it looked as though the Lady Cats were in for a battle. JBU scored in their first possession and led 2-0 on a Josie Sisk basket in the paint. Not to be outdone, the Lady Cats answered with a Kyra Hardesty three and the battle was on. Another Kyra Hardesty three made it 6-2. The Golden Eagles tied it on their next two trips down the floor and it looked to be a tight game in the making. An Annie Noah bucket inside would give the Lady Cats the lead and they would not look back. Every move by the Golden eagles was countered with a Lady Cat response. The score remained close through the first six minutes of the game. With 3:43 left in the first quarter, Grace Steiger scored inside to give the Lady Cats a four point advantage, 15-11. Threes by Kyra Hardesty and Jordan Wersinger would cap off an 8-0 run and put the Lady Cats on top 21-11. The Golden Eagles would not give in and fought their way back to a three point game as time was running down in the first quarter. A desperation three-quarter court shot by Kayley Frank fell short but she was fouled on the play and drained all three free throws to give the Lady Cats a 28-22 lead at the break.
The second quarter saw the Lady Cats beginning to pull away. Michelle Gabani and Annie Noah combined for a pair of baskets and with 7:54 left in the half, the Lady Cats lead was back at ten, 35-25. JBU hit a shot and a free throw but Jordan Wersinger answered with a three and a three point shooting contest had begun. A three by Madi Braden at the 3:39 mark made it 40-28. A JBU three by Maddie Altman was countered with a Kayley Frank three of her own and it was 45-31 with 2:05 left in the half. The Golden Eagles were able to close out the second quarter with four unanswered points and close the gap to 45-35 at the intermission.
Kayley Frank started the third quarter like she had finished the two previous frames, putting three points on the board, with a shot from long range. The Golden Eagles would respond with a three by Tarrah Stephens but the Lady Cats were ready to break it open. A 16-1 run would ensue, capped off by yet another Kyra Hardesty three and the lead was 64-39. JBU would put a small run together and hit a three to end the third but the damage had been done and the lead was 66-50 Lady Cats, to end the quarter.
The fourth quarter would see the visitors from Arkansas hang tough with the Lady Cats. Jordan Wersinger would score the first six points of the quarter for CofO as they tried to use the clock and maintain their lead. Kayley Frank added a bucket at the 4:30 mark and it was 74-60. JBU would continue to challenge but the Lady Cats always had an answer as Wersinger put six more points on the board to finish out the game and give the Lady Cats an, 80-63 win.
Heading toward the A.I.I. tournament, Coach Mullis stated, “Our team responded very well to a quick turnaround after playing less than 24 hours earlier. We had a quick film session and walk-thru last night and the ladies executed our game plan to perfection. We guarded well, placing specific emphasis on communicating against the screens in their motion offense. We rebounded well, shot well, shared the ball well. I'm very pleased and proud of the improvement we've made the past week. The ladies responded well. We're excited for post season!"
The Lady Cats were led by Jordan Wersinger’s 19 points. Kayley Frank tied her career high with 17 while Kyra Hardesty added 15, and Annie Noah recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Madi Braden and Katie Mayes chipped in six each, Grace Steiger added four, and Michelle Gabani added three. The Golden Eagles were led by Tarrah Stephens with 14.
The Lady Cats will open play in the A.I.I. Conference Tournament next weekend as they set their sites on another trip to the NAIA National Championships.