The College of the Ozarks Bobcats returned to Keeter Gymnasium Tuesday to host the Bluejays of Tabor College. Tabor, a traditionally strong program, came to C of O to open their season. While Coach Steve Shepherd’s young roster has had some struggles in the first three games, improvement and growth have been the theme and steps have been taken in a positive direction. Tuesday, the Bobcats looked to add to the positive steps.
The game looked to be a battle from the opening tip. Both teams traded baskets in the early going and a Kyle Flavin jumper and a Tanner Rogers three had the Bobcats even with the Bluejays, 5-5. Tabor scored the next three baskets to go up 12-5 when Josh Linehan found the bottom of the net to cut the gap. The teams continued to battle back and forth until Tabor pulled ahead by seven, 25-18, with 12:31 to play in the half. The Bobcats remained persistent and continued to battle but neither team could gain ground. A Garrett Simmerman bucket with 3:40 remaining in the half cut the deficit to seven once again and the Bobcats looked to close the gap even more before the break. Three Blaine Cline free throws later and the Tabor lead was down to four and the Bluejays led at the half, 37-33.
The second half was a roller coaster ride of sorts for the Bobcats. Tabor scored first in the half, but C of O quickly answered. Neither team would score again until the 16:35 mark when Tabor drained a three. Another Tabor Basket forced a Bobcat timeout and an opportunity for Coach Shepherd to get his team refocused. Garrett Simmerman connected on a pair of free throws to break the Bobcat scoring drought, but Tabor answered and built their lead back to 10, 47-37. Neither team would score again until Tabor hit a shot with 10:46 to play. The Bobcats could not find a rhythm and tabor began to pull away. A pair of three-point baskets expanded the Tabor lead to 18, 55-37 and it looked like the Bobcats may be out of it. Garrett Simmerman became the Bobcat offense in the second half as he scored the first 11 points of the half. A Drew Vachon jumper cut the deficit to 10 with 6:47 to play and the Bobcats needed to make a run. The defensive effort for the Cats stepped up and the next 3:30 was all C of O. Tabor could not find the basket and the Bobcats continued to chip away. With 3:18 left to play, a Simmerman bucket cut the gap to four, 56-52. Tabor finally scored but Tanner Rogers drilled a deep three to get the Bobcats to within three with 1:14 left on the clock. Tabor scored with :48 left and Matt Luebbert supplied the answer just :08 later. Both teams had opportunities to take advantage of their opponent but neither team could do so. As time ran down, Tabor hit a free throw to expand the lead to four. The Bobcats were unable to get a shot and time expired. The Bobcats had clawed their way back from an 18-point deficit but eventually fell, 61-57.
Garrett Simmerman led all scorers with 20 point to go along with his seven rebounds. Tanner Rogers added nine, Blaine Cline, Josh Linehan, and Matt Luebbert each chipped in six, Kyle Flavin scored five, Buck Sanders added three, and Tanner Diaz contributed two. Blaine Cline continued to show his presents on the boards as he pulled down eight rebounds.
The Bobcats will be back in action at home Saturday, November 6, at 3:15 when they host Hannibal-LaGrange University in the Homecoming 2021 game.