The College of the Ozarks Bobcats made their first road trip of the season over the weekend to compete in the Missouri Baptist Classic in St. Louis.
Facing the Lyon College Scots on Friday, the Bobcats were looking to bounce back from their season opening loss to Evangel. Garrett Simmerman started things off on the right foot by hitting a quick jumper. A stop on the defensive end resulted in a Josh Linehan three and the Bobcats were on the move. Lyon hit a free throw and a three to get their offense going and the game looked to be a tight battle in the early going. The teams played even through the first five minutes and the Scots held a slim two-point advantage. The Bobcats hit a cold spell from the floor and Lyon began to capitalize. A 6-0 run gave the Scots a 15-7 lead and forced the Cats to take a timeout to regroup. A three by Lyon made it 18-7 but a Tanner Rogers three answered to keep the deficit at eight. The teams continued to battle but every Bobcat challenge was promptly answered by the Scots. A Lyon College bucket made the score 23-15 and it became a defensive affair. Neither team could find the bottom of the net for the next two minutes. A Scots bucket broke through followed by a three and the Bobcat deficit hit double digits, 28-15. The cold streak for the Bobcats continued while Lyon slowly added to their lead. With 4:08 remaining in the half, the Bobcats were in a deep hole, trailing 32-18. With the youth of the Bobcats, giving in might have been the expected response. The Bobcats, however, were not ready to do so. A Blaine Cline three cut into the lead and a Garrett Simmerman two gave the Cats some momentum. Threes by Kyle Flavin and Blaine Cline closed out the scoring for the Bobcats, all while the defense held Lyon scoreless for the final 3:04 of the frame. The Bobcats ended the half within striking distance, down 35-29.
Blaine Cline started things off in the second half with a quick bucket and the deficit was cut to four. Lyon answered with a pair of free throws but a Josh Linehan three had the Bobcats right back in contention, trailing by three. Lyon felt the pressure and stepped up to respond. A 7-0 run would put them back up by 10 and force a Bobcat timeout with four minutes gone in the half. The teams would battle back and forth over the next three minutes with neither team gaining traction. A basket by Lyon at the 13:20 mark increased the deficit to 53-39 and Coach Steve Shepherd called a timeout to rally the troops. Out of the huddle, a Matt Luebbert basket was followed by a Garrett Simmerman score to cut the gap to 10. The defense continued to hold and another Luebbert three inched the Bobcats closer. A Lyon College free throw put them back in the scoring column, but the Bobcats continued to claw. A Josh Linehan basket was followed by a Tanner Diaz three and the deficit was cut to five with under 10 minutes to go. Another dry spell by both teams was broken by a Josh Linehan three and the Bobcats now trailed 57-54. Four unanswered points by the Scotts gave them some breathing room, but Kyle Flavin hit a shot to get the spread back down to five. Lyon continued fighting off the challenges of the Bobcats. Trading jabs over the next few minutes, the Bobcats could not get over the hump. Another cold spell ensued, and Lyon took advantage, going up by eight with 2:36 left to play. A Josh Linehan jumper cut the gap down to six, 69-63 but that is as close as the Bobcats would get. The Bobcats, desperate to score, were unable to do so and Lyon added on points. The Scots pulled away in the end and took the contest 78-66. The final score was not an accurate reflection of the game as the Bobcats battled back several times and challenged the Scots.
Coach Shepherd was proud of his team and had this to say following the game, “We played well enough to win. We kept battling and put ourselves in a position to do so. We missed a few shots and couldn’t get a couple of key stops. I’m proud of our effort and execution. We are getting better and that’s what you strive for early in the season.”
Josh Linehan led the Bobcats with 20 points. Blaine Cline added 13 and Tanner Rogers chipped in 12. Garrett Simmerman added eight, while Kyle Flavin and Matt Luebbert each scored five and Tanner Diaz added three.
The Bobcats were back in action Saturday as they faced the host, Missouri Baptist Spartans. The Bobcat offense was slow getting started and MBU took advantage. Scoring the first seven points, the Spartans put the Bobcats in an early hole. A Garrett Simmerman three put the Bobcats on the board with 17:56 on the clock. The Bobcats got a pair of Blaine Cline baskets, but the Spartans kept pace and maintained their four-point advantage, 11-7. The defense for both teams dominated the next couple of minutes and neither team could find the basket. A Garrett Simmerman basket broke the drought and the Bobcats puled within two, 11-9. Missouri Baptist called a quick timeout to regroup. Out of the huddle, the Spartans out scored the Bobcats 6-2 but a Kyle Flavin three cut the deficit to three, 17-14, with 13:27 remaining. The teams traded baskets until an MBU three put them up by seven, 23-16. C of O called a timeout and two quick Matt Luebbert buckets brought the Bobcats back within three. Defense for both teams stepped up once again and neither team could manage more than a basket over the next four minutes. With 7:21 remaining in the half, a Tanner Rogers three pulled the Bobcats even for the first time since the opening tip. Nearly two minutes later, Blaine Cline hit a jumper to give the Bobcats their first lead. The lead was short lived, however, and MBU hit the next two shots to regain the advantage. A three by Kyle Flavin, with 4:00 on the clock, put the Bobcats back up by one but the Spartans answered with the next three baskets to end the half, and the Bobcats trailed at the intermission, 35-30.
The second half started much like the first. The Spartans opened the half on an 11-2 run and the Bobcats momentum was squelched. C of O could only muster two points through the first 3:32 of the half and trailed 46-32. Back to back buckets by Linehan and Simmerman cut the deficit to 10, 46-36, but MBU quickly answered. Things continued to get shaky for the Bobcats and the Spartans began to pull away. The five point deficit at the half had grown to a 19 point spread with 11:42 left to play. The Bobcats continued to battle but the push of the Spartans continued to hold off the Bobcat challenge. A Tanner Diaz three cut the gap to 65-60 with 7:56 remaining but MBU continued to hold off the Bobcats. The Bobcats were able to keep pace with the Spartans but could not make up any ground. Every challenge by the Bobcats was resisted and the deficit became insurmountable. The Bobcats fell in game two of the classic, 82-65.
Matt Luebbert, Blaine Cline, and Josh Linehan each scored in double digits for the Bobcats with 14, 13, and 10 points respectively. Kyle Flavin contributed eight, Garrett Simmerman – 7, Tanner Rogers – 6, Buck Sanders – 3, and Tanner Diaz and JaCorey Thompson each added two. Garrett Simmerman pulled down eight rebounds in the loss.
The Bobcats return to action Tuesday in a double header with the Lady Cats, as both teams host Tabor College. The Lady Cats will tip off at 5:30 with the Bobcats to follow.