The last time the College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats were on the losing end of the score, was on January 15 at Iowa Wesleyan University. A game the Lady Cats were playing after a week of no activity due to Covid protocols and a home game the night before. With the threat of a winter storm approaching, the Lady Cats boarded the bus Friday night, following a win over Kansas Christian, and headed to Mount Pleasant, Iowa. With a lot of different variables in play, the Lady Cats had a rough Saturday afternoon and came home with a 77-34 loss.
Fast forward to Saturday afternoon, February 19, Senior Day 2022, and the Lady Cats were set to face the talented and sharp shooting Tigers once again. Having won 12 of their last 13, the Lady Cats were looking to keep their current streak of seven straight wins alive. They knew they would have their hands full but also knew they were in a much better position this time around. Coach Becky Mullis had her team ready to play, even though they would be without the services of injured guard, Jordan Wersinger.
The opening quarter would reveal if the Lady Cats were indeed a different team than the Tigers saw a month earlier, or if that result would hold true to form. Kayley Frank set the tone early, putting the first two points one the board. The Tigers answered with a three and the feel was different than an Iowa Wesleyan runaway. The defense controlled the first four minutes and the teams battled to a 5-5 tie with 6:06 left to play in the opening frame. With a Blythe Benefield three being the last points on the board for the Lady Cats, Kayley Frank put a spark in the offense, scoring the next eight Lady Cat points. A pair of Katie Mayes baskets capped a 12-6 Lady Cat run to end the quarter and a score of 17-11.
The teams traded jabs in the second quarter and neither team could gain ground. A pair of Kayley Frank free throws gave the Lady Cats their largest lead of the game, 23-13, with 7:06 left in the half. IWU answered with a pair of free throws and a three to cut the gap to 23-18. Annie Noah scored to add to the lead, but the Tigers would not go away. Another basket cut the lead to five and the half began to wind down. With the Lady Cats leading 27-22 and 1:33 left to play, the defense for both teams stepped up. A foul on the Tigers’ Kyla Moore was met with disdain from the IWU bench as the time on the clock was dwindling, and a technical foul was assessed. Stevi Jones hit one of her two free throws and Kyra Hardesty drained the technical tries to send the Lady Cats into the intermission leading 30-22.
With momentum on the side of the Lady Cats, it was time to turn up the pressure. A Kayley Frank free throw and a Blythe Benefield three to open the third quarter, did just that. Blythe Benefield drained another pair of free throws before the Tigers could score and the lead was up to 36-22. Kyra Hardesty stepped up for a scoring run of her own with a pair of threes and a two sandwiched around an Annie Noah basket, and the Lady Cats were in control, 46-25. IWU was knocked into a stagger and the Lady Cats continued to roll. Katie Mayes, Grace Steiger, and Michelle Gabani joined the scoring parade and the third quarter buzzer sounded with the Lady Cats up 55-31.
The Lady Cats continued the assault in the fourth quarter with Annie Noah and Kayley Frank adding to the lead. Using as much time as possible on each possession, the Lady Cats maximized their opportunities and led 61-38 with 4:51 left to play. The Tigers would continue to claw but the Lady Cats held off every challenge. Content to let the clock run down, the Lady Cats used the full shot clock in their final possessions and secured the 65-49 win. Seniors Kyra Hardesty, Grace Steiger, Michelle Gabani, and Student Assistant April Earls were sent out with a home win in their final game in Keeter Gymnasium.
The win was the eighth consecutive for the Lady Cats as they head into the final week of the regular season. Kayley Frank led the way for the Lady Cats with 15 points. Kyra Hardesty connected for 12 and Katie Mayes added 10. Grace Steiger chipped in nine while Blythe Benefield and Annie Noah each added eight. Michelle Gabani and Stevi Jones contributed two and one respectively.
The Lady Cats will be back in action Saturday, February 26 at Baptist Bible College in Springfield with a 2:00 PM start.