Hillsboro, Kan. - The College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats hit the hardwood for their season opener Thursday and came away with a 70-66 win at Tabor College. With three Lady Cats posting double figure scoring and two of the three recording double-doubles, the Lady Cats held off a late charge by the Bluejays to secure the 70-66 win.
The Bluejays opened the scoring with a quick pair of deep threes by Alicia Baker. The Lady Cats broke through on an Annie Noah basket and the race was on. Noah connected off a Kayley Frank pass on the next possession and a Blythe Benefield two was followed by another Noah bucket to record the game’s first tie, 8-8. Noah gave the Lady Cats their first lead at the 6:29 mark and the Bluejays knew they needed a defensive adjustment. With eight of the first 10 points coming from Noah, the rest of the Lady Cats were ready to step up as the defense adjusted. Jordan Wersinger posted the next four Lady Cat points, and the lead was up to 14-8 at the midway point of the first quarter. The Bluejays continued to answer and cut the lead to 14-13 with 4:01 remaining. Kayley Frank then scored the first two of her game high 23 points, to expand the lead to 16-13. Another Alicia Baker three returned the lead to Tabor before Noah would reemerge for a bucket to make it 18-18. Allie Osterman connected on a pair of free throws with :38 remaining before Jordan Wersinger responded with a pair of free throws of her own to send the game to the second quarter, knotted at 20-20.
Wersinger connected on a jumper to open the second quarter scoring, but Tabor quickly answered with a three. The two teams continued to trade jabs until threes by Wersinger and Blythe Benefield gave the Lady Cats a 30-26 advantage. The Lady Cat defense took center stage, but the offense was unable to capitalize until the 3:07 mark. Stevi Jones and Kayley Frank each connected on a pair of free throws to go up 38-28 before Tabor broke a five-minute drought at the :34 mark. Free throws by Tabor cut the lead to 38-30 but Stevi Jones responded with another two from the charity stripe and the Lady Cats held a 40-30 lead heading to the locker room.
Tabor scored first in the third quarter, but Kayley Frank responded. The Lady Cat defense picked up where they left off heading to halftime and Tabor was unable to put points on the board for the next 3:30. Frank and Noah scored before the Bluejays could break through, but Tabor remained within striking distance. Frank put the next five Lady Cat points on the board, as Tabor continued to counter. A Katie Mayes jumper and another Frank bucket closed out the third quarter and the Lady Cat lead was 57-43 with the final 10 minutes remaining.
Tabor was gearing up to battle in the fourth quarter and the Lady Cat offense hit a cold spell. Unable to put points on the board in the first 4:25 of the frame, the Bluejays were able to cut the gap to 57-52. An Annie Noah bucket broke the ice and the fight to hold the lead was on. Leading by only four, 59-55, Lady Cat freshman, Avery Arnold drained a big three to build the lead back to seven, 62-55, with 4:22 remaining. Jordan Wersinger found her way back into the scoring column and posted the next two Lady Cat buckets. A fierce Tabor comeback bid resulted in nine unanswered points and the tension mounted with the score tied, 66-66. A basket by Wersinger at the 1:05 mark was followed by intense Lady Cat defense. The Bluejays were unable to break through and Wersinger sealed the win with a pair of free throws with :20 remaining. Tabor’s desperation shots at the end were thwarted and the Lady Cats came away with the 70-66 win.
Kayley Frank led the way with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists for the Lady Cats. Annie Noah also recorded a double-double with 14 points, and 15 rebounds while Jordan Wersinger tacked on double digit scoring with 19 points. Blythe Benefield added five points, Stevi Jones chipped in four, and Avery Arnold contributed three.
The Lady Cats will be back in action Saturday as they travel to Fulton, MO to take on the William Woods Owls in a 1:00 start.