The College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats made a northern trek to Des Moines, IA over the weekend to participate in the Grand View University Classic. The weekend schedule would pit the Lady Cats against William Penn University in the Friday evening contest and the host, Grand View University in the Saturday game.
Coming off a difficult loss to Tabor College earlier in the week, the Lady Cats felt they had something to prove. Annie Noah wasted no time getting her 20-point night started, hitting a turn-around jumper on the first possession to score the first points of the contest. The Statesmen quickly answered, and it took a bit for the Lady Cats to get the rest of the offense rolling. A Kayley Frank basket would be the only other points the Lady Cats could get in the first 4:30 of the opening period. WPU, on the other hand, would continue scoring and take and early 10-4 lead. A Kyra Hardesty three cut the deficit to three with 5:30 remaining in the opening stanza. Free throws by Noah and Frank would tie the score at 10 and the battle was on. Defense controlled the next couple of minutes and neither team could find the basket. Another Kyra Hardesty three broke the drought and put the Lady Cats on top, 13-10. The Lady Cat defense continued to hold strong, only allowing two more WPU points in the quarter. A traditional three-point play by Blythe Benefield would round out the Lady Cat scoring and give them a 16-12 lead, after one period of play.
Defense continued to be the dominant theme in the second period as the Lady Cats held WPU scoreless until the 6:53 mark. A pair of Noah baskets and a Stevi Jones three put the Lady Cats up, 23-12. Noah continued to make it rain as she poured in another two points following the WPU basket. Foul trouble began to plague the Lady Cats and the next six WPU points came from the charity stripe. Suddenly the Statesmen were back in contention. Michelle Gabani jumped into the scoring column, but a WPU three at the 1:09 mark would cut the Lady Cat lead to two, 29-27. Annie Noah answered and put the Lady Cats up 31-27 heading into the locker room.
Both teams continued their defensive game plan to start the second half and neither team would score through the 8:09 mark. Annie Noah drained a free throw to open the Lady Cats scoring. WPU immediately answered with a basket of their own. Blythe Benefield hit a three on the next possession and followed with another two to build the Lady Cat lead to 10, 39-29. WPU would not go away and continued to battle. With the lead cut to six, a Kayley Frank bucket put the Lady Cats up by eight, with 3:27 to go. Just 24 seconds later, Frank drilled one from long range to build the lead to 11, 44-33. WPU continued to challenge and cut the lead back to nine. Baskets by Jada Henry and Kyra Hardesty were enough to hold off the Statesmen charge and two Kayley Frank free throws, with no time on the clock, would put C of O up 50-39, heading to the fourth quarter.
WPU started the fourth quarter hitting a three but Steve Jones, Michelle Gabani, and Annie Noah responded with baskets to hold WPU at bay. With 3:52 left to play, Blythe Benefield hit a shot to give the Lady Cats a 58-46 advantage and they would not look back. The Lady Cat defense proved to be too much for the Statesmen and a free throw and a three would be the extent of their offense the rest of the game. Annie Noah tacked on two more baskets to close out the Lady Cat scoring and C of O would prevail 62-50.
After the game, Coach Mullis stated, “Our team played really well tonight coming off an atypical performance on Tuesday. We pulled together, went to work in practice preparing for this game, and got back to doing what we do well. I’m proud of our leaders for stepping up and regaining our team’s focus.”
Annie Noah recorded a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Kayeley Frank added 13 points, Blythe Benefield – 10, Kyra Hardesty – 8, Stevi Jones – 5, Michelle Gabani – 4, and Jada Henry – 2. Michelle Gabani pulled down nine rebounds and Kayley Frank eight in the cause.