Coming off an impressive 85-44 win the night before, the College of the Ozarks Bobcats were back in action Saturday, looking to make it two in a row. Playing host to the Royals of Ecclesia College, the Bobcats were looking to build some momentum and pick up another home win.
A Kyle Flavin three put the Bobcats on the board first but Ecclesia quickly answered. Feeling it from long range, Flavin drained another from beyond the arc and the Royals were trading two for three in the early going. A Matt Luebbert free throw and a three by Andrew Mitchell bumped the Bobcat lead to 10-4 and the momentum was clearly in favor of the Bobcats. The Royals cut into the Bobcat lead with two unanswered baskets before a Josh Linehan basket made it 12-8. With just under 14:00 to go in the half, things got really interesting. A Royal foul was committed, followed by a pair of technicals on the Ecclesia bench. Andrew Mitchell connected on six straight free throws as a result and the Bobcat lead grew to 18-8 without the clock moving. A Royal basket was followed by another Mitchell three and a Cainen Mar basket to extend the Bobcat lead to 23-10. The two teams traded baskets over the next several minutes and the Bobcats held off any challenges by the Royals. Devin Carroll and Josh Linehan got into the scoring action and with 5:51 left in the half, the Bobcat lead was 35-21. Andrew Mitchell connected for yet another three and Josh Linehan, Kyle Flavin, and Xavier Oduor closed out the scoring in the half to send the Bobcats to the locker room with a 49-36 advantage.
The Royals were determined to get back into contention in the second half and they came out aggressive defensively. Ecclesia scored the first basket of the half, but Kyle Flavin responded with a three. Josh Linehan added to the lead with a basket and the Royals were struggling to score. A Matt Lubbert jumper, with 13:34 remaining, forced a timeout by the Royals, with the Bobcats holding their biggest lead, 56-40. The Royals came out of the huddle on a mission and put together a 13-2 run to make things interesting. With the lead dwindled to 58-53, the Bobcats needed to break the offensive silence. A Garret Simmerman basket inside was the answer and Andrew Mitchell followed with another three. Ecclesia continued to battle and the Bobcats were challenged to maintain their composure and control of the ball. With the Bobcats leading 67-59 at the 6:00 mark, Andrew Mitchell came through again with a deep three and Kyle Flavin drained a pair of free throws to provide some breathing room. The Bobcats continued to hold the Royals at bay, but the intensity of their defense continued to build. As time was winding down, the Royals began chipping away at the lead. A few Bobcat miscues turned into Ecclesia points and the lead was cut to single digits, 80-71. Kyle Flavin hit a pair of free throws with :47 seconds left but the Royals were not conceding. A Ryan Reed three cut the gap to 81-74 and a pair of free throws made the score 81-76. Flavin drained three free throws sandwiched around a Royal basket and the Bobcats secured the win 84-78.
Andrew Mitchell led all scorers with 27 points on 6-13 shooting from beyond the arc. Kyle Flavin recorded a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds and Josh Linehan added 17 points. Devin Carroll chipped in eight points while Matt Luebbert contributed seven, Xavier Oduor, and Cainen Mar each tacked on two, and Garrett Simmerman added one point in the win.
The Bobcats will be at home again on Tuesday when they welcome Central Christian College of the Bible to Keeter Gymnasium in a 6 PM tipoff.