For the first time in two years, the College of the Ozarks Bobcat Basketball team hosted a Homecoming game in Keeter Gymnasium, and there was definite excitement in the air. The Homecoming crowd was excited to see Homecoming basketball, and the Bobcats did not disappoint.
Things got off to a rough start for the Bobcats as they struggled to find the bottom of the net for the first 4:25 of the game. A 7-0 run by the visitors from Hannibal-LaGrange put the Bobcats in an early hole and the uphill battle had begun. Garrett Simmerman broke through with a shot in the paint and the Bobcats were on the board. A Blaine Cline three cut the deficit to two, 7-5. The teams traded points over the next several minutes and the Bobcats used free throws from Josh Linehan, Tanner Diaz, and Drew Vachon, along with a bucket from Matt Luebbert, to tie the score at 15. C of O was unable to take the lead as the Trojans answered the challenge. The Bobcats continued to push, but the Trojans began to build a lead. With 7:02 left in the half, the deficit had grown to six, 21-15, and Coach Shepherd took a timeout to regroup. Josh Linehan hit back to back shots and recorded a traditional three-point play to cut the deficit to one. The momentum was short lived however, as the Trojans responded. Another HLGU 7-0 run put the Bobcats down by eight with 3:35 left in the half. A three-point play by the Trojans increased the gap to 10, 31-21, and the Bobcats needed to bounce back. The teams traded baskets until an Andrew Mitchell three sent to game to the intermission with the Bobcats trailing by seven, 33-26.
The Trojans opened the scoring in the second half, but Josh Linehan quickly answered with a bucket for the Bobcats. Blaine Cline picked up a three-point play, and Tanner Rogers drained a three, but the Bobcats were just keeping pace. The tide began to turn when a Garrett Simmerman basket was sandwiched between a pair of Kyle Flavin threes and the deficit was cut to three, 45-42. The crowd responded to the new Bobcat momentum and the Homecoming excitement was back. The Trojans continued to hold off the Bobcat challenge until a Tanner Rogers three was followed by baskets by Linehan and Cline to tie the score at 49. The Trojans answered again but a Kyle Flavin three, with 11:02 left to play, would give the Bobcats their first lead, 52-51. In his first game back from an injury, Andrew Mitchell stepped in and hit another three to build the lead to four. The Trojans continued to respond but the Bobcats began raining threes to increase the lead. Kyle Flavin and Andrew Mitchell took turns hitting threes, and after four consecutive treys, the Bobcat lead was 69-61. Kyle Flavin added to his point total with a pair of free throws and a Matt Luebbert jumper put the Bobcats up, 73-66, with 4:26 left to play. Kyle Flavin continued his hot streak with a bucket and a deep three to build the lead to 10, 78-68. The Trojans continued to fight but the Bobcat defense stepped up to keep them at bay. A Kyle Flavin free throw put the Bobcats up six, 79-73, with :18 left to play. With :03 left to play, a steal by Blaine Cline led to a pass to Josh Linehan. Linehan passed ahead to Garrett Simmerman who added an exclamation mark dunk to end the game. The Bobcats wrapped up the Homecoming win, 81-76.
Kyle Falvin led all scorers with 23, including six threes. Josh Linehan added 16 while Andrew Mitchell went 4-5 from behind the arc to score 12 in his first action of 2021-22. Blaine cline contributed eight points while Tanner Rogers and Garrett Simmerman each added six points to the cause. Drew Vachon and Matt Luebbert chipped in four each and Tanner Diaz tacked on two.
The Bobcats are back in action Tuesday night as they host Calvary University in a 7 PM start.