The College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcat Basketball team is about to get very familiar with bus trips. With the rest of the November schedule being played on the road, the Lady Cats will face plenty of tests over the next few weeks.
The Lady Cats started the stretch of road games with a trip to Wichita, Kansas on Thursday to face Friends University. The Falcons opened the season with two wins and the Lady Cats knew they would have their work cut out for them if they were to get the road swing started on the right foot.
The Lady Cats, still without the services of injured guard, Jordan Wersinger, wasted no time in establishing their mission. Michelle Gabani opened the scoring for the game and Kayley Frank followed with the first two of her game high, and career high, 20 points. The Falcons, Kassie Kinneburgh answered to cut the lead in half and the race was on. The teams continued to trade baskets with the Lady Cats holding a slim two-point advantage over the first 3:57. Coming out of a Lady Cat timeout, Annie Noah connected in the paint to increase the lead to four, 17-13. The Falcons’ Taylor Jackson and McKenzie Shippy promptly teamed up for a basket and a three to give Friends their first lead of the contest. A Carrie Lacy basket would build the Falcon lead to three and both teams went cold. Trailing 20-17, the Lady Cats’ Kyra Hardesty nailed a deep three to tie the score at 20, with 1:05 left in the first period. The Falcons answered with a basket but a Kyra Hardesty bucket as time expired, evened the score heading to the second quarter.
With just a few ticks of the clock gone in the second frame, Stevi Jones busted a three to put the Lady Cats back on top, 25-22. The Falcons put a free throw on the board and Kyra Hardesty followed with a three to increase the lead to 28-23. The defense for both teams stepped up and both teams struggled to find the bottom of the net. Alexa Chairs hit a free throw and a basket to cut the Lady Cat lead to three. The Lady Cats were unable to score until a Jada Henry shot found the bottom of the net with 5:47 left in the half. The teams would continue to battle back and forth with C of O maintaining a slim advantage. With 2:36 remaining, Taylor Jackson pulled down an offensive rebound and scored the put back to bring the Falcons back even, 34-34. Kayley Frank immediately answered on the other end and Annie Noah scored to give the Lady Cats a four-point lead. Carrie Lacy and Jailen Johnson hit back to back baskets for the Falcons and the clock expired with the score tied, 38-38 at the half.
The Falcons opened the scoring in the second half with a Carrie Lacy three and the Lady Cats responded with a Kyra Hardesty two. The back and forth action continued with the Falcons holding a narrow lead. With 5:35 left in the third quarter, Kayley Frank hit a shot to tie the score at 45-45. The defense for both teams took over once again and the next couple of minutes were void of any offense. A Michelle Gabani bucket at the 3:09 mark put the Lady Cats back on top and the battle continued. After an Alexa Chairs two tied the score again, the Lady Cat offense engaged. Threes by Kayley Frank and Stevi Jones, along with baskets by Annie Noah and Blythe Benefield, were mixed in with a pair of Frank free throws and the Lady Cat lead was 59-49 with 1:01 left to play in the quarter. Friends tacked on a bucket with time winding down and the Lady Cats took a 59-51 lead into the quarter break.
Blythe Benefield opened the scoring in the fourth quarter to extend the lead back to 10. The Falcons would not go away and continued to battle. Gracie Sammons and McKenzie Shippy scored on back to back trips to cut the Lady Cat lead to four. The teams traded baskets until Blythe Benefield, Kyra Hardesty, and Michelle Gabani added a trio of buckets to the scoreboard for C of O. The Lady Cat Defense continued to hold, and after a 3:13 scoreless streak by the Falcons, the score was 70-60, Lady Cats. A Carrie Lacy basket broke the dry spell for the Falcons and the comeback charge was on. The Lady Cat offense hit a lull and the Falcons began to capitalize scoring five unanswered points and cutting the lead to 70-67. It was clear that this game would come down to clock management and free throws. Kayley Frank connected on one of two free throws at the 1:31 mark but a Carrie Lacy basket immediately cut the Lady Cat lead to two, 71-69. The two teams traded possessions with neither team scoring and time was running down. With :27 remaining on the clock, Kyra Hardesty stepped to the free throw line. With ice water in her veins, Hardesty drained both free throws. A missed Falcon shot resulted in a foul and another pair of clutch free throws for Hardesty. With :18 on the clock and the Lady Cats leading 75-69, the game was far from over. Carrie Lacy connected for a long three for the Falcons to cut the lead to three. An immediate foul on the inbound sent Kayley Frank to the line where she hit nothing but net to put the Lady Cats up 77-72 with :12 left in the game. The Falcons missed a three-point attempt and fouled Annie Noah on the rebound. Noah sealed the win by connecting on her two shots from the charity stripe and the Lady Cats held on to win 79-72.
Kayley Frank led all scorers with a career high 20 points while pulling down nine rebounds. Kyra Hardesty poured in 19 points, for a new career high, on 3-8 shooting beyond the arc, and hitting four clutch free throws to secure the win. Annie Noah continued her double-double ways scoring 15 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Stevi Jones added nine points going 2-2 form three-point land and 3-3 from the charity stripe. Blythe Benefield added eight points, Michelle Gabani six, and Jada Henry two.
The Lady Cats went from Wichita to Sterling, Kansas to compete in the Sterling College Classic with games on Friday at 6 PM and Saturday at 12 PM.