After more than a month of road games, the College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats donned the white uniforms in the familiar surroundings of Keeter Gymnasium Wednesday night. The 9-3 Cougars of Columbia College came to town and the Lady Cats needed their “A” game.
A MacKenzie Dubbert three opened the scoring for the Cougars on the first possession of the game and it seemed to be a premonition of things to come. Jordan Wersinger answered for the Lady Cats and the race was on. The teams battled back and forth in the early going and the Lady Cats took their first lead at the 7:31 mark on a Kayley Frank jumper. The Cougars responded with a two and a Jordan Wersinger three countered. Annie Noah and Kayley Frank scored back to back baskets and the Lady Cat lead was 13-7. The Cougars clamped down on defense to stop the Lady Cats and scored seven unanswered points to regain the lead, 15-13. The Lady Cats responded with an Annie Noah bucket and a free throw to take a 16-15 lead into the first quarter break.
Defense dominated the first minute of the second quarter as neither team could score. Grace Steiger broke the ice with a basket inside but another MacKenzie Dubbert three for the Cougars tied the score at 18. The tug of war continued and neither team could gain a sizeable advantage. The teams traded baskets through out the frame and a Michelle Gabani bucket at the :07 mark tied the score at 29-29 heading to the intermission.
The Lady Cats struck first in the third quarter with a Kayley Frank basket. The three-point barrage continued for the Cougars with an Abby Backes shot from deep, but Kyra Hardesty answered with a three of her own. The Lady Cats continued to hold a slight advantage, but they could not break free from the Cougars. Like a highly contested chess match, both teams responded to the other’s moves. A Michelle Gabani bucket, a Wersinger three, and an Annie Noah basket gave the Lady Cats a brief six point lead. Peyton Crowe drained a three at the 2:25 mark to cut into the lead but Blythe Benefield provided the Lady Cat response. A pair of Michelle Gabani free throws maintained the Lady Cat lead until Mallory Shetley scored with :08 remaining in the frame to cut the gap to three, 54-51.
The fourth quarter began just like the first. MacKenzie Dubbert drilled a three to tie the score and then another to give the Cougars the lead. The Lady Cats went cold from the field and it seemed that Columbia College found their groove. With nine unanswered points, the Cougars had built a 60-54 lead to open the frame. A Lady Cat timeout broke the momentum and Annie Noah scored to pull the Lady Cats within four. Clare Shetley and Peyton Crowe hit a pair of threes, but the Lady Cats continued to challenge. Free throws by Frank and Wersinger along with a Kyra Hardesty three, kept the Lady Cats close. Trailing 67-63, the Lady Cats needed a shift in momentum. They could not seem to get over the hump and the Cougars continued to hold off the charge. A Kayley Frank basket at the 4:01 mark cut the gap to five, 70-65. A pair of Cougar baskets and a free throw opened the biggest lead of the contest, 75-65, Cougars. The Lady Cats continued to battle but the deficit was too much to overcome. As time was winding down, the Lady Cats continued to attack. The late charge kept the game within reach, down to the final seconds, but the Cougars held on for the win, 80-76.
Hitting 12-24 from beyond the arc, the Cougars were able to offset the double figure scoring of Noah, Wersinger, Frank, and Gabani for the Lady Cats.
Annie Noah led the way for the Lady Cats with 18 points and nine rebounds. Kayley Frank poured in 17, Jordan Wersinger – 15, and Michelle Gabani tacked on 10. Blythe Benefield added eight, Kyra Hardesty – six, and Grace Steiger chipped in two.
The Lady Cats will be back in action at home Friday as they host Southwestern Christian University in a 5:30 PM start.