Riding a two game win streak, including a dominating performance in the Regional Semifinal, the College of the Ozarks Bobcats were looking to secure a spot in the NCCAA National Championship Tournament. Standing in their way, however, were the Ecclesia Royals. The Royals had taken the most recent meeting between the two teams, 70-62 in Springdale, and the Bobcats knew they would have their work cut out for them.
The Bobcats jumped out to an early lead with a Matt Luebbert bucket inside, a Josh Linehan three, a basket by Andrew Mitchell, and a Luebbert three point play. A 10-2 Bobcat lead was the result, and the Royals were in an early hole. Garrett Simmerman got on the board with a pair of baskets and with 14:39 remaining, the Bobcat lead was up to 14-4. Ecclesia began to come to life and soon had cut the Bobcat lead to 15-11. Lubbert and Linehan combined for a basket and a three to hold off the Royals’ charge, but the pressure continued to grow. The Royals cut the gap to 20-17 before Devin Carroll drained a pair of threes, and Kyle Flavin scored to build the lead back to 28-17. Andrew Mitchell scored and Carroll sank another from beyond the arc before Ecclesia put together a 9-0 run. Carroll hit another three to end the scoreless streak, but the Royals rattled off five unanswered points to close the half. The game went into the intermission with the Bobcats clinging to a 36-35 lead.
The momentum had clearly shifted at the end of the half and the Bobcats needed to respond. A Josh Linehan basket to start the second half seemed to be the answer. A quick Ecclesia three however, would indicate otherwise. Another three by the Royals gave them their first lead and the clock had moved to 18:23. Kyle Flavin drained one from deep to tie the score and the teams began trading baskets. The score would be tied three more times before the Royals would build a four point advantage. The tug of war continued, but Ecclesia maintained a slight edge. A pair of Terry Gupton free throws cut the gap to 55-54 at the midway point of the second half. The Bobcats continued to battle but could not find a way to regain the lead. Kyle Flavin and Matt Luebbert scored to keep the game close and the Bobcats trailed 66-63 with 5:15 left to play. For every challenge the Bobcats posed, the Royals provided an answer. Time continued to tick away, and the Bobcats could not put together the much-needed run. A Royals three at the 2:14 mark bumped the score to 70-65 and the Bobcats were in trouble. A Garrett Simmerman free throw and a Flavin basket followed by a three, would keep the gap at five, but Ecclesia continued to answer. Flavin would hit two more free throws down the stretch, but that would be all the Bobcat offense. Ecclesia was able to run down the clock and took the win, 79-73.
Kyle Flavin scored 22 points to lead all scorers, and Matt Luebbert turned in a solid performance pouring in 15. Devin Carroll added 14, while Josh Linehan and Garrett Simmerman each added eight. Andrew Mitchell chipped in four, and Terry Gupton added two points to round out the Bobcat scoring.
The Bobcat season came to an end with the loss. While the season may not have gone exactly as planned, The Bobcats battled hard and overcame a lot of adversity. The two seniors, Matt Luebbert and Andrew Mitchell, led a young group of Bobcats through some difficult times for the program. They showed a lot of resilience, perseverance, and made a lasting impact on the young men around them. With a good core returning, the Bobcats will look forward to good things to come in the future.