Playing their third game in five days, the College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats welcomed the Lyon College Scots to Keeter Gymnasium for their home opener of the 2022-23 season.
Kayley Frank opened the scoring for the Lady Cats after a three by the Scots gave them the early 3-0 lead. The Scots came out on fire and hit four threes and a pair of two-point baskets in the first 4:45 to post an early 16-6 lead. Taylor Rush, Annie Noah, and Kayley Frank kept the Cats within reach, but the defense needed to adjust to contain the Scots. A quick Annie Noah bucket and a forced Scots’ turnover was followed by another Noah basket to cut the gap to 20-18. Applying full court pressure, the Scots were able to force a Lady Cat turnover for a basket, but a Taylor Rush assist to Kayley Frank provided the answer. Avery Arnold scored her first two points of the contest and the Lady Cats had pulled even for the first time since the opening tip. A pair of Kayley Frank free throws and a forced Scots shot clock violation ended the first quarter and the Lady Cats held a 24-22 advantage.
The Scots opened the scoring in the second quarter, and it appeared the game would continue to be a close one. A Scots free throw returned the lead to LC but a Taylor Rush three was the Lady Cat answer. The teams continued to trade baskets and neither team could extend a lead. The Scots regained the lead at the 5:48 mark and the back-and-forth action continued. The lead quickly bounced back to the Lady Cats with a Blythe Benefield three at the 4:24 mark. Isabel Rahlfing drained a pair of free throws, and a Lady Cat run began. Wersinger scored on three consecutive trips and Kayley Frank scored four straight points to boost the Lady Cat lead. Wersinger added another driving layup to the board and as the buzzer sounded, the Lady Cats had run off 14 unanswered points to take a 50-35 lead to the locker room.
The Scots opened the second half scoring with a three by Mari-Hanna Newsom, but the Lady Cats answered the challenge with baskets from Blythe Benefield and a pair of free throws by Kayley Frank. The teams traded baskets over the next several minutes and the Lady Cats responded to each Scots challenge. A quick 7-0 Lyon College run forced a Lady Cat time out and with 5:10 left to play in the third, the lead had been cut to 57-49. Full court Scots’ pressure forced a Lady Cat turnover, and another Scots bucket capped an 11-0 run and the lead dwindled to 57-53. A Kayley Frank basket broke the string and a Stevi Jones three provided a little breathing room. Annie Noah drained a turn-around jumper, and the Lady Cats had a 7-0 run of their own. With 2:21 remaining, the lead was up to 64-53, Lady Cats. A basket and a three-point play by the Scots cut into the lead and a three at the buzzer made the score 68-64 heading to the final frame.
The Scots had used full court pressure defense to steal the momentum heading to the fourth quarter and the Lady Cats needed to respond. LC scored the first two points of the quarter and things continued to get interesting. A Taylor Rush pass to Avery Arnold for a reverse layup put the Lady Cats on the board and the lead was expanded to 70-66. The LC defense continued to cause problems for the Lady Cats, and it was clear the Scots were not going away. Taylor Rush and Katie Mayes added to the Lady Cat lead, but Lyon continued to challenge. Trading baskets became the norm and the Lady Cats fought to hold off the Scots. Leading 75-69 with 6:00 remaining in the game, a Kayley Frank layup was answered with a pair of Scots baskets and the lead was cut to 77-73. A Lady Cat turnover resulted in a traditional three-point play for the Scots and the lead had been cut to one, 77-76. Jordan Wersinger connected on a jumper in the lane and the Lady Cat defense stepped up on the next possession. A pair of Wersinger free throws expanded the lead to 81-76 with 3:30 left to play. A Lyon basket was answered with a Blythe Benefield three and the race to the finish was on. Stevi Jones drained a deep three with 1:18 remaining and the Lady Cat lead grew to nine, 89-80. The Scots were forced to foul to stop the clock and clock management and free throws became important to close out the game. The Lady Cats were able to run the clock down and three free throws by Kayley Frank sealed the 92-80 Lady Cat win.
Kayley Frank led the Lady Cats with 25 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double and Annie Noah recorded another double-double of her own with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Jordan Wersinger poured in 22 points and Blythe Benefield contributed 12 points in the win. Stevi Jones and Taylor Rush added eight and seven points respectively and Avery Arnold tacked on four. Isabel Rahlfing and Katie Mayes rounded out the Lady Cat scoring with two points each.
The Lady Cats head to North Newton, KS this Saturday to take on Bethel College, then return home Tuesday, November 15 to face Mid-America Nazarene University.