The College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats made the long trek to Northern New Mexico College in Espanola, New Mexico over the weekend and came away with a clean sweep in their two contests. Facing the host Eagles Friday, and the Pioneers of Crowley’s Ridge College Saturday, the Lady Cats extended their win streak to five straight, going back to their final game of 2022 when they defeated Friends University on New Year’s Eve.
C of O vs Northern New Mexico College – Friday, January 6
Looking to continue their winning ways in the new year, the Lady Cats were set to battle the Eagles of Northern New Mexico College.
The Lady Cats jumped on the board first with a pair of Blythe Benefield baskets, but the lead was short lived. The Eagles responded with a pair of baskets and a three before an Annie Noah, traditional three-point play tied the score at 7-7. The defense for both teams controlled the next couple of minutes and the tug of war was on. The teams traded baskets with Taylor Rush and Jordan Wersinger breaking into the scoring column for the Lady Cats. An Avery Arnold three put the Lady Cats on top, 15-13 but the Eagles quickly answered with a basket and the first quarter ended with the score knotted 15-15.
An Eagles three and a pair of free throws capped a 5-0 run to open the second quarter. Annie Noah answered with a pair of baskets of her own and Kayley Frank scored for a 6-0 Lady Cat run to regain a short-lived lead, 21-20. Trading baskets became the norm, but the Eagles seemed to have the upper hand. A Blythe Benefield three cut the Eagle gap to 27-26, with 2:27 remaining in the half, and the offenses for both teams stalled out. A Katie Mayes jumper and an Annie Noah free throw would round out the scoring and the Lady Cats took a 29-27 advantage to the break.
The Eagles scored quickly to open the third quarter, but Annie Noah continued her solid performance to answer the challenge. Leading 35-33 midway through the frame, Kayley frank scored to give the Lady Cats their largest lead and a Jordan Wersinger running jumper extended the gap to 39-33. The Eagles continued to battle but the Lady Cats began to feel a shift in momentum. Katie Mayes, Isabel Rohlfing, and Wersinger teamed up to close out the third quarter scoring and the Lady Cats took a 50-41 lead to the quarter break.
The Eagles opened the scoring in the final 10 minutes, but Wersinger and Rohlfing answered once again to grow the lead to 56-43. In just a short amount of time, the Lady Cats had gained control of the contest and simply needed to hold off the challenges of the home team. The Eagles were determined to fight to the finish but a Tylor Rush three and a basket, combined with a trio of Kayley Frank baskets, would secure the 69-56 win in the classic opener.
Annie Noah led all scorers with 18 points and eight rebounds. Jordan Wersinger added 11 points and Kayley Frank recorded 10. Taylor Rush chipped in eight points to go along with seven for Blythe Benefield, six for Katie Mayes and Isabel Rohlfing, and three for Avery Arnold.
C of O vs Crowley’s Ridge College – Saturday, January 7
The Saturday matchup featured the Lady Cats taking on former conference foe, Crowley’s Ridge College.
The Lady Cats broke out to an early lead with an Annie Noah basket and a free throw by Kayley Frank. The Pioneers broke the seal on the basket at the 8:08 mark but Noah and Frank combined for another pair of baskets to keep the Lady Cats on top. CRC continued to battle and cut the gap to 7-6 before buckets by Blythe Benefield and Taylor Rush built an 11-6 Lady Cat lead. Neither team would score again until the Pioneers broke through with a three at the 3:03 mark. Noah and Frank combined for the next two Lady Cat baskets, but back-to-back Pioneer threes tied the score 15-15, with one minute remaining. A Taylor Rush three kept the Lady Cats on top as time expired and the lead was 18-15 heading to the second stanza.
Neither team scored in the opening minute of the second quarter and Kayley Frank was the first to break the silence. CRC answered with back-to-back threes and the Lady Cats, trailing now 21-20, needed to respond. Avery Arnold quickly accepted the challenge and drained a deep three to regain the lead. A Wersinger basket combined with a Taylor Rush three provided some breathing room and the Lady Cats led 28-21, with 5:51 left in the quarter. A Pioneer basket and pair of free throws cut the gap once again. Wersinger and Rush teamed up to answer the challenge again with a couple of baskets and a three respectively. Both teams went cold in the final two minutes of the quarter and a single free throw for the Pioneers would cap the scoring. The Lady Cats took a 35-29 advantage into the locker room, and they would have to come out strong in the second half to hold off the Pioneers.
The Lady Cat defense took center stage to open the third quarter, allowing only two points through the first 5:32. On the offensive side, Frank, Noah, and Wersinger combined for an 8-0 run and a 45-31 lead. The Pioneers refused to crumble, but the Lady Cats continued to hold them at bay. Another Taylor Rush three wrapped up the third quarter scoring and the Lady Cats held a 53-39 lead, heading into the final 10 minutes.
The fourth quarter would be all about clock management and fighting off the challenges of the Pioneers. A quick pair of free throws and another basket showed signs of life left in the green jerseys. The Lady Cat defense stepped up once again and the Pioneers were held scoreless for the next 3:10. Meanwhile, Noah, Frank, Benefield, and Rush put together another 7-0 run and the Lady Cats were in control. A 4-0 Pioneer run would cut into the lead, but a Katie Mayes basket and a Noah free throw would squelch the CRC momentum. With time winding down, Mayes, Wersinger, and Rush added six more points and the Pioneers were unable to gain ground. A Pioneer basket as time expired cut the lead, but the Lady Cats secured the win, 69-54.
Taylor Rush led the offensive charge for the Lady Cats, scoring 18 points on four of six shooting from beyond the arc. Kayley Frank and Annie Noah posted another pair of double-doubles with 17 points/13 rebounds and 14 points/11 rebounds respectively. Jordan Wersinger also contributed double figure scoring with 13 points in the win. Katie Mayes chipped in four points, while Avery Arnold and Blythe Benefield tacked on three each to round out the scoring.
The Lady Cats return to action Saturday, January 14th when they host Iowa Wesleyan in a 1 PM start.