The College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats took a weekend trip to warmer temperatures and competed in the Hoops in Hawaii Holiday Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii. With three games in three days, the Lady Cats were set to take on the host, Hawaii Pacific University Sharks, the Argos of the University of Providence-Great Falls, and the Oaks of Menlo College. The Lady Cats would have to overcome the focus challenges of the location, as well as a four-hour time difference, to make a good showing against some very talented squads.
C of O vs Hawaii Pacific University – Saturday, December 17
The Lady Cats had little time to adjust to the surroundings as they opened play in the classic against the host team, Hawaii Pacific University. Both teams came out gunning early and with baskets by Kayley Frank, Taylor Rush, and Blythe Benefield, the score was knotted 8-8 with three minutes gone in the opening frame. An Ashley Nunez three gave the Sharks the advantage and the battle was on. The teams would trade baskets until a Benefield layup cut the gap to 15-14, and a Jordan Wersinger bucket put the Lady Cats on top for the first time since the opening minutes. The C of O lead was short lived as another Sharks three flipped the lead back to the home team. A basket by Annie Noah tied the score, 20-20 with 2:15 left to play in the quarter, but the Sharks continued to respond to the Lady Cat challenges. As time ran down in the opening frame, a Kayley Frank jumper in the final seconds would close out the scoring and the Sharks led 25-22 after one.
The defense for both teams stepped up in the second quarter and offense was hard to find. HPU scored first, but Kayley Frank provided a quick answer. Neither team could string together points and the defense was tasked with holding the opponent down. Wersinger added a basket and Isabel Rohlfing would get on the board for the Lady Cats but that was all the offense that could be generated. The Lady Cat defense accepted the challenge, and the Sharks were held to nine points in the frame. As the clock expired, the Sharks held a 34-28 lead heading to the intermission.
It was clear that the Lady Cats had their hands full and would need a solid second half to derail the Sharks. HPU wasted no time getting on the board and a 5-0 run would spell trouble for the Lady Cats. A Kayley Frank layup broke through with 8:09 left in the frame but a pair of HPU free throws and another basket bumped the gap to 43-30. The dry spell for the Lady Cats continued until a free throw and a layup by Wersinger cut the gap back to 10. A Katie Mayes basket was all the offense the Lady Cats could manage down the stretch and the result was a 7-2 HPU run.
Trailing 50-35 heading to the final frame, the Lady Cats had a lot of work to do. Kayley Frank got things started with a bucket inside and Katie Mayes scored from close range to give the Lady Cats some life. The Sharks answered with a basket at the 7:31 mark, but another Mayes basket kept the pressure on. Avery Arnold drained a deep three with 6:02 left to play and the Lady Cats had cut the gap to single digits. If they were going to make a comeback, this was the time it needed to happen. Sensing the pressure building, the Sharks answered the challenge and hit a layup and an unanswered three to slow the Lady Cat momentum. The Lady Cats could not put together the needed run and the Sharks continued to pull away. A Katie Mayes jumper and a basket by Frank would be all the Lady Cats could get, and the Sharks sealed the 72-56 win in the opener.
Kayley Frank paced the Lady Cats with a double-double (20 Points/ 11 Rebounds) while Katie Mayes used a strong fourth quarter to add eight points and six rebounds. Jordan Wersinger tacked on seven points, Avery Arnold contributed six, Taylor Rush, Annie Noah, and Blythe Benefield each chipped in four points, and Isabel Rohlfing and Susanna Moran added two and one respectively.
C of O vs University of Providence – Great Falls – Sunday, December 18
All eyes were on Kayley Frank in game two of the classic. With just three points needed to break the 1000-point plateau in her Lady Cat career, there was anticipation for an early reason to celebrate.
Thinks got off to a shaky start for the Lady Cats as the Argos jumped out to an early 12-4 lead. With Jordan Wersinger’s two baskets on the board, the Lady Cats needed to get the offense going. A free throw by Wersinger cut the gap to 12-5 but UPGF kept applying pressure. With 3:44 left in the opening frame, Kayley Frank broke free on the wing and drained a three to hit her 1000th point. Unfortunately, there was no time to celebrate as the Argos were continuing to build a lead. Neither team would score for the next 1:47 as the defense stepped up. Blythe Benefield broke the drought with a layup and the gap was cut to 16-10. The Argos put two more points on the board, but a Frank basket, followed by a Mayes jumper would send the game to the quarter break, 18-14, UPGF.
The Argos scored first in the second stanza, but Frank quickly responded with a basket of her own. The Lady Cats could not seem to get over the hump and the Argos added to their lead. After an Isabel Rohlfing free throw cut the gap to 23-17, the Argos scored the next four points to build a double-digit advantage. Free throws by Benefield, Frank, and Rush were followed by a Frank layup and a pair of Katie Mayes free throws, and the deficit was cut to 28-25. A pair of UPGF free throws would finish the second quarter scoring and the Lady Cats trailed 32-25 headed to the locker room.
After a quick layup for UPGF, Jordan Wersinger scored from mid-range, Taylor Rush drained a deep three, and Blythe Benefield hit a layup for a 7-0 Lady Cat run. Wersinger connected on a pair of free throws with 5:59 remaining and the score was tied, 34-34. A layup by Wersinger moments later gave the Lady Cats their first lead and the momentum had shifted. The Argos scored out of a timeout, but Kayley Frank provided the answer. The Argos were not ready to relinquish control however, and four unanswered points gave them the 40-38 lead heading to the final frame.
Despite the 40-38 Argo lead, the Lady Cats had battled back from the early deficit and the momentum still seemed to be in their favor. Taylor Rush solidified the momentum with a layup to open the fourth quarter and Katie Mayes followed with a jumper to regain the lead. An Avery Arnold three found the bottom of the net with 7:46 remaining and Rush scored again to cap the 9-0 run. The Argos took a timeout to regroup and try to slow the Lady Cat fury. A pair of UPGF free throws and a layup calmed the storm, but the Lady Cats were determined to continue the attack. Wersinger and Mayes teamed up for the next six points and the Lady Cat lead was up to nine, 53-44. With 3:00 left to play, it was up to the Lady Cats to hold off the determined Argos. A pair of UPGF threes made things interesting down the stretch as the lead had been cut to 57-54 with less than a minute to play. As the Argos attempted to press the Lady Cats, a quick pass to Kayley Frank and a drive to the basket for a layup extended the lead. An Argo turnover resulted in a Jordan Wersinger layup as the clock wound down and the Lady Cats secured the 61-54 win.
Jordan Wersinger led the Lady Cat offense with 18 points while grabbing seven rebounds. Kayley Frank followed with 17 points and nine rebounds, including her 1000th point on a three in the opening quarter. Katie Mayes and Taylor Rush added eight points each, while Blythe Benfield tacked on five, Avery Arnold four, and Isabel Rohlfing added one.
C of O vs Menlo College
The Lady Cats squared off against the Menlo College Oaks in the Classic finale and they had their hands full from the opening tip. With full court pressure, a fast-paced offense, and cold shooting from the Lady Cats, the Oaks jumped out to an early 14-2 lead. Blythe Benefield had the only Lady Cat basket in the first 3:46 of the quarter and the hole was going to be difficult to climb out of. Annie Noah sank a free throw and Kayley Frank drove for a layup, but the Oaks led 16-5 with 4:37 left to play. The shooting woes continued, and the Oaks began to pull further out of reach. With time winding down, Frank scored to cut the gap to 25-10 and the Lady Cats had a lot of work to do.
The Lady Cats began chipping away at the deficit in the opening minutes of the second quarter with a Frank basket, a Mayes traditional three-point play, and a layup by Isabel Rohlfing. The Oaks answered the challenges and held a 28-17 lead with 5:18 showing on the clock. A three and a basket by the Oaks extended the lead, but Avery Arnold connected from deep and added a layup to cut the gap to 33-22. Katie Mayes drained a three and the deficit was back to single digits with 3:09 left in the half. As the quarter came to a close, Frank scored inside before a Menlo free throw sent the teams to the locker room with the Oaks leading 36-27.
The Oaks could feel the Lady Cats knocking on their door and came out of the locker room on a mission. Going on a 9-0 run to start the third quarter, the Oaks took control of the contest. Isabel Rohlfing put the Lady Cats on the board at the 7:37 mark but the damage had been done. Another Oaks bucket forced a C of O timeout and the Lady Cats needed to respond. Kayley Frank put three straight buckets on the board to give the Cats some life, but the Oaks continued to hold off the charge. The two teams traded baskets and the Lady Cats were not able to cut into the gap. A pair of Oaks free throws and a three as time expired put the Lady Cats down 59-47 with just 10:00 left to play.
C of O scored first in the final frame with a Frank Free throw. A Katie Mayes mid-range jumper cut the deficit to single digits, and it appeared the Lady cats had something going. Neither team would score for the next couple of minutes and the Oaks broke the silence first. A 6-0 run built the lead to 67-51 and time was running out. The offense was unable to get the needed run to get back into contention and the Oaks held on for the 73-56 win.
The Lady Cats were led by Kayley Frank with 18 points, while Avery Arnold added 10, Katie Mayes nine, and Isabel Rohlfing eight. Taylor Rush tacked on five, Annie Noah added three, Blythe Benefield chipped in two, and Susanna Moran tacked on one.
Along with scoring her 1000th career point, Kayley Frank averaged 18.3 ppg and nine rebounds per game over the three-day event, and received Hoops in Hawaii Holiday Classic All-Tournament team honors.
The Lady Cats will be back in action Saturday, December 31 at Keeter Gym as they host Friends University in a 3 PM start.