The College of the Ozarks Bobcats struggled on both ends of the floor in the opening half of Tuesday’s game against Bacone College and found themselves in an early hole. A furious comeback in the second half was needed if the Bobcats would have a chance.
The game opened with the teams trading baskets until Bacone went up 8-6 with 15:26 left to play. A 10-2 Warrior run ensued and the Bobcats trailed by 10 with 11:58 remaining. Tanner Rogers drained a deep three to break the string but Bacone continued to attack. Another 12-0 run by Bacone put the Cats down 30-11 with 9:20 left to play in the half. The Bobcats broke through with a Matt Luebbert three-point play at the 9:14 mark and Josh Linehan followed with back to back baskets. Bacone showed no signs of slowing down and built a 42-20 lead with 6:29 to go. Josh Linehan connected for five straight points, but the Warriors answered with four of their own. Neither team could find the bottom of the net for the next 2:12 until the teams traded single free throws. An Austin Dean basket at the 1:30 mark would be the last points of the half and the Bobcats had not hit a field goal in the final 5:06. Heading into the intermission trailing 49-26, the Bobcats had a lot of work to do to get back in the game.
Blaine Cline opened the scoring in the second half hitting a pair of free throws. The Warriors continued their mission, however, by answering with back to back baskets. Trailing 53-28, the Warriors were in control. Time was running out for a Bobcat rally, if there was one to be had. Matt Luebbert added a pair of free throws, followed by a Josh Linehan two. A Tanner Rogers three on the next possession gave the Bobcats a spark and there seemed to be some hope and determination returning for the guys in white. A Warrior three-point play built the deficit back to 19, 56-35 before a Kyle Flavin three and a Blane Cline basket cut the gap to 14. The teams would go back and forth, and the Bobcats could not seem to make up ground. The tide changed at the 11:57 mark when Andrew Mitchell found cotton from three-point land. A Warrior two answered but Mitchell splashed one home from deep again and the Bobcats were within 12 with 9:14 to play. Another Mitchell three on the next possession forced a Bacone timeout with the Bobcats trailing 62-53. Blane Cline picked off an errant Warrior pass out of the huddle and scored the breakaway to cut the gap to 62-55 and the Bobcat momentum was in full force. A Bacone three was promptly answered by yet another Andrew Mitchell long range shot, and the threes were raining down in Keeter Gymnasium. A Warrior free throw at the 6:33 mark was answered by another three by Mitchell, this time the traditional type with a basket and the free throw. Count down the clock to 4:58 and here he comes again…Andrew Mitchell from long range and the gap is cut to two, 64-62. Another Bacone timeout resulted and the Bobcats had come back from 25 down to cut it to two. A Warrior free throw increased the gap to three, but Josh Linehan responded with a basket to cut it to one. Andrew Mitchell drained a pair of free throws with 3:03 remaining and the Bobcats had their first lead since the opening minutes. A Derek Factor three put the Warriors back on top, 70-69 but Andrew Mitchell connected from downtown again, and the Bobcats were up, 72-70 with 1:51 to go. Bacone tied the game on the next possession and the Bobcats took a timeout. Mitchell splashed home yet another three out of the huddle and the Bobcats led 75-72. Bacone answered with a three and the score was knotted at 75 at the end of regulation. The Bobcats had mounted an amazing comeback but five more minutes would have to be played to see if they could complete it for the win.
The Bobcats scored first in the extra frame with an Andrew Mitchell two. Bacone Answered with a pair of free throws and it looked as though it would go down to the wire again. The teams traded baskets and free throws with neither team pulling away. With the Bobcats trailing 82-81, Kyle Flavin drained a three and Josh Linehan followed with a pair of free throws. Derek Factor answered with a three on the other end and we were back to a one-point game. A turnover gave the ball back to the warriors and Dean Austin connected with :16 left on the clock to give the Warriors an 87-86 advantage. The Bobcats could not get their final shot to fall and Bacone escaped with the 87-86 win as time ran out.
Andrew Mitchell fueled the comeback with 28 second half points on 7-11 shooting from three and 9-14 overall. He was also 3-3 from the charity stripe. Josh Linehan poured in 23 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for a double-double. Blaine Cline also recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Kyle Flavin and Tanner Rogers narrowly missed double-doubles of their own with eight points each and 12 and 10 rebounds respectively. Matt Luebbert chipped in nine points and 7 rebounds to the cause.
The Bobcats will be back in action for their final regular season home game this Saturday when they host Ecclesia College at 3:00 in Keeter Gymnasium.