Friday, November 12 vs Sterling College
The College of the Ozarks Lady Cats continued their road swing in Sterling, Kansas as they competed in the Lonnie Kruze Classic at Sterling College. Coming of a win in Wichita the night before over Friends University, The Lady Cats were set to face the host, Sterling College on Friday and Southwestern College Saturday.
Sterling College opened the 2021-22 season having finished last season with a 30-1 record and a Sweet-16 appearance in the NAIA National Championship Tournament. Their unblemished record to start this season was on the line as the Lady Cats came to town.
The contest started with Sterling opening the scoring, but the Lady Cats’ Blythe Benefield quickly answered. Defense dominated the next several possessions and neither team could gain an advantage. A Warrior three by Sydney Bangert broke the ice and a Bailey Albright layup gave the Warriors a 7-2 lead. Kayley Frank would strike back with a three at the 6:11 mark but Sterling quickly responded. The Lady Cat offense stalled, and the Warriors began to capitalize. Unable to put points on the board, the Lady Cats found themselves in a hole, 17-5, with 3:40 left in the opening frame. Kayley Frank broke through with a basket off a Michelle Gabani pass to cut into the lead, but the hill was going to be a steep one to climb. The Lady Cats knew the defense needed to get stops in order to claw their way back into the contest. Steve Jones hit a two then a quick three to spark the offense and the Lady Cats trailed 21-12 at the 2:21 mark. Emmiley Hendrixson answered for the Warriors but a pair of free throws and a jumper by Annie Noah cut the Warrior lead to seven. A Hendrixson trey with four ticks left on the clock put the warrior lead back to double digits as time expired for the quarter.
Sterling continued to apply pressure as play began in the second period. Warrior layups by Bailey Albright and Lauren Carmack increased the gap and the Lady Cats trailed, 30-16. Michelle Gabani put the first two points on the board for the Lady Cats with nearly three minutes gone in the frame. Both teams turned up the defense and a Warrior free throw would be the only point scored over the next three minutes. With 3:55 left to play in the half, Kayley Frank drove to the rack and scored for the Lady Cats. Trailing 31-20, another Kayley Frank bucket cut the lead to single digits. Sterling broke their scoring drought with a pair of Taya Wilson free throws at the 2:30 mark in the quarter. Stevi Jones and Kayley Frank added two more points to their totals, but an eight-point barrage by the home team wrapped up the scoring and thwarted the Lady Cat momentum. The Lady Cats trailed at the half, 41-26.
Michelle Gabani started the third quarter offense with a quick two, but Sterling answered with eight unanswered points. Down 48-28, Lady Cat Coach Becky Mullis took a timeout to rally the troops. Emmiley Hendixson connected on a pair of free throws before Annie Noah and Kayley Frank scored a pair of baskets to chisel into the lead. Kayley Frank continued to pace the Lady Cat offense with a deep three with 5:57 remaining in the period. The Warriors led 50-35 and the defense for both teams took over again. The next two minutes were scoreless for both teams. Kayley Frank nailed a pair of free throws with 3:46 remaining but Taya Wilson answered with a basket for the Warriors. Annie Noah and Stevi Jones gave the Lady cats four straight points before Taya Wilson connected on a pair of Sterling free throws. Katie Mayes drained a deep three and Blythe Benefield poured in a couple free throws to cut the gap to nine and the Lady Cats had battled back. The end of the period continued to be the nemesis for the Lady Cats as Sterling threw in five unanswered points to close out the frame. Trailing 59-46, the Lady Cats had one more quarter to stage the comeback.
Sterling scored first in the fourth quarter and Kayley Frank quickly answered for the Lady Cats. The battle was on, and the two teams traded baskets. Another Kayley Frank trey cut the deficit to single digits, 67-58, with 6:50 remaining. It was go time if the Lady Cat comeback charge was going to happen. A Kyra Hardesty bucket cut the gap to seven and Sterling could feel the pressure. A pair of Warrior free throws and a made layup broke the Lady Cat momentum. The Lady Cats kept pace with the home team but could not seem to get over the hump. Sterling continued to answer the Lady Cat challenges. Annie Noah connected on a three-point play to cut the Warrior lead to nine, 78-67, but the Warriors answered again. Kayley Frank connected on four straight from the charity stripe to round out the Lady Cat scoring, but the Warriors sealed the 83-71 win with a Bailey Albright Layup.
While the scoreboard was not in favor of the Lady Cats when time expired, there were definite take aways to build on from this contest. Kayley Frank scored a career high 29 points to pace the Lady Cats, including a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line. The Lady Cats were a perfect 17-17 from the charity stripe, which ties the single game record for the Lady Cats. Coach Mullis commented, “I am really proud of our team and the way we battled against a high caliber team. Sterling is one of the top teams in the country and we held our own and gave ourselves a chance. We are seeing definite growth and I’m excited to see the continued development of this group.”
Along with Franks’ 29 points, Annie Noah and Stevi Jones added nine each, Michelle Gabani contributed eight, Kyra Hardesty tacked on seven, Blythe Benefield – six, and Katie Mayes chipped in three.
Saturday, November 13 vs Southwestern College
It’s not very often that a team is able to ride momentum from the previous game, when that game was a loss. That’s exactly what the Lady Cats set out to do in day two of the Sterling Classic. Facing the Mound Builders of Southwestern College, the Lady Cats were determined to keep moving in a positive direction.
Annie Noah jump started the Lady Cat offense by outscoring the opponents 5-2 in the opening minutes. Michelle Gabani got in on the action with a pair of free throws and Kayley Frank hit a layup to give the Lady Cats a 9-3 lead with 6:30 to play in the opening frame. Katie Mayes tacked on a basket and Kyra Hardesty drained a three and with 2:08 left to play, Southwestern could only manage a basket and a pair of free throws. Blythe Benefield nailed a couple of free throws before a Keywaysha Alsup jumper broke a long scoreless streak for the Mound Builders. Kayley Frank added a layup and a pair of free throws before a SWC jumper by Kyra Winn was answered by a Stevi Jones bucket. The Lady Cats had dominated the opening period 22-8 when the clock expired.
The second stanza got off to a slow start for both teams as neither scored for the first 1:17. Kayley Frank broke through with a couple of shots from the charity stripe and Kyra Hardesty added a trey before the Mound Builders would hit a couple free throws at the 7:39 mark. Hardesty promptly nailed another three and Katie Mayes followed with a jumper to put the Lady Cats up 32-12. Free throws would be all the offense the Mound Builders could manage until a Sydney Dennis basket with 5:15 left in the quarter. The Lady Cats made several trips to the foul line as well and their near perfect shooting expanded the lead. A pair of Annie Noah baskets would close out the frame and the Lady Cat lead was 48-30 at the half.
The Mound Builders tried to challenge in the third quarter, but the Lady Cat offense was locked in. Hardesty, Benefield, and Gabani hit baskets to add to a Kayley Frank three and the lead was 58-35 midway through the period. The threes kept coming as Benefield and Hardesty connected from long range again and the Southwestern shots could not find the bottom of the net. The Lady Cats continued to pour on the points amid the Mound Builder offensive woes. A Southwestern three by Shaylynn Choate to close out the quarter cut the Lady Cat lead to 73-40.
Cameran Martin and Katie Mayes continued the free throw “net scorching” for the Lady Cats, each hitting a pair to start the fourth quarter. The Lady Cats would get threes from Katie Mayes and Jada Henry and a basket from Cameran Martin in the final frame. The rest of the Lady Cats 20 points would come from the charity stripe. Jada Henry’s three with :23 left was answered by an Amanda Graddy three for the Moundbuilders as time expired and the Lady Cats took the final game of the weekend, 92-60
The Lady Cats connected on 27 of 29 free throws in the contest making them 44-46 over the two games and 63-70 through the three game stretch.
Four Lady Cats scored in double figures with Kyra Hardesty going 6-7 from beyond the arc for 18 points. Katie Mayes matched the game high with 18, Kayley Frank added 17, and Annie Noah threw in 15. Blythe Benefield added seven, Michelle Gabani and Cameran Martin each chipped in six, Jada Henry contributed three and Stevi Jones added two.
The Lady Cats will be back in action Tuesday as they head to Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas for a 6 PM contest.