Post-season basketball took center stage at Keeter Gymnasium Friday as the Bobcats hosted the semifinals of the NCCAA Regional Tournament. With the Royals of Ecclesia College and the Warriors of American Indian College squaring off in the opening game, the Bobcats were set to face Baptist Bible College in the nightcap.
The Bobcats and Patriots had split their two earlier meetings, with BBC taking the game in Springfield, 91-85 in overtime, and the Bobcats taking the most recent matchup 88-77 at Keeter Gymnasium.
The Bobcats set the tone early with a pair of threes by Tanner Rogers and Kyle Flavin, and a basket by Josh Linehan. The Patriots then got their offense going and the battle was on. With a solid fan base for both teams, the atmosphere intensified as the game did the same. Flavin teamed up with Matt Luebbert for a pair of baskets and the Bobcat lead grew to 12-7. The Bobcats hit a slight cold spell and the Patriots capitalized. An 8-0 Patriot run gave them the lead and the Bobcats needed to score. A Devin Carroll three was just what the doctor ordered, and the Bobcats pulled even again. The teams traded baskets to a 19-19 tie at the 12:22 mark and the Bobcats sparked a run of their own. A Terry Gupton three was followed by a pair of Linehan threes, and BBC needed a timeout. Linehan and Luebbert added baskets out of the huddle and a 13-0 run gave the Bobcats a 32-19 lead. BBC tried to battle back, but the Bobcats held them at bay. Linehan, Luebbert, and Flavin continued the Bobcat offensive attack, and the Bobcats maintained control of the momentum. Flavin scored a layup and hit a three moments later, and the Bobcat lead was 44-28, with 1:06 left in the opening half. A Garrett Simmerman bucket inside rounded out the Bobcat scoring, and the lead was 46-31 heading to the intermission.
Linehan and Flavin kept the fire burning to open the scoring in the second half, and the Bobcats continued to roll. Linehan followed a Flavin three with a basket, and the Cats had opened a 53-33 lead. Athree minute dry spell would have spelled big trouble for the Bobcats earlier in the season. Instead, the Bobcat defense took center stage and held the BBC offense in check. The Bobcats did not score again until a Flavin tip-in at the 14:30 mark. The defense had done the job, however, and a solid 55-40 lead had been maintained. The offense engaged again, and the Patriot challenges were again thwarted. Devin Carroll drained another three and Gupton and Flavin added another pair of baskets to answer any Patriot challenges. A Gupton three at the 11:38 mark would be the last points scored until four Linehan free throws found the bottom of the net with 10:01 remaining. The Bobcats continued to maintain composure through intense BBC pressure and responded any time the Patriots threatened a run. Free throws by Luebbert, Rogers, and Flavin helped the Bobcats maintain momentum as the BBC pressure resulted in multiple tries from the charity stripe. The Bobcat points all came from the line until Gupton and Linehan scored near the 3:00 mark. The Patriots slipped farther behind and Xavier Odour, Tanner Diaz, and Gavin Davis all jumped into the scoring column. With time winding down, the Patriots were unable to gain ground on the Bobcats, and the 96-74 win was secured.
Josh Linehan and Kyle Flavin led the Bobcat offense with 27 and 25 points respectively. Matt Luebbert added 13 points, Terry Gupton poured in 11, and Devin Carroll added six. Tanner Rogers and Garrett Simmerman each tacked on four, and Tanner Diaz, Xavier Oduor, and Gavin Davis contributed two each.
The Bobcats next action would be Saturday as the faced Ecclesia College for the Regional Championship and a trip to the NCCAA National Championship Tournament.