Point Lookout, MO - Coming off a hard-fought overtime loss in their season opener to the Tabor College Bluejays, the College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats were looking to get in the win column at home against the Threshers of Bethel College. Playing in the friendly confines of Keeter Gymnasium, the Lady Cat were facing a coach very familiar to C of O in Rocky Lamar, longtime men’s coach at Mid-America Nazarene University. Lamar made multiple trips to the NAIA Division II Men’s National Championship tournament but has now been given the reigns of the Bethel Women’s program.
The Threshers jumped out to an early lead as both teams struggled to find the basket. Logan Jones put the Lady Cats on the board at the 8:43 mark and the battle was on. Bethel continued to hold a slim advantage, but baskets by Susie Moran and Blythe Benefield kept the score close. The Lady Cats took their first lead off a Benefield basket at the 6:01 mark and were looking to pull away. The Threshers on the other hand, had different plans. The back-and-forth action continued through the waning minutes of the opening quarter, but a Logan Jones three gave the Lady Cats their biggest lead, 17-12, with 2:32 remaining. The Lady Cats began to make their presence known on the defensive end and the offense picked up with free throws by Susie Moran and a three by Abbey Linville. The Lady Cats forced a quick turnover, and the Threshers needed a timeout to regroup. Taylor Rush jumped on the board with a two out of the huddle and the Lady Cats owned a 24-12 lead heading into the first break.
Blythe Benefield drove the lane to open the second quarter scoring and the Lady Cats were rolling. The defense was doing the job on one end and the offense was building a lead on the other. Bethel had not scored since the 3:01 mark of the opening frame and the Lady Cat defense maintained the trend until there was 7:45 showing on the clock in the second quarter. In the meantime, Taylor Rush drained a three and Kayley Frank added two points to her total to give the Lady Cats a 31-13 lead. Another pair of treys and a two by Rush were followed by baskets by Keara Mattingley and Blythe Benefield and the lead grew to 43-20. With 2:37 to play in the half the Lady Cats were well in control. The Threshers however found some fire and turned on the pressure out of a timeout. A couple of quick baskets gave them some life and turned the momentum away from the home team. An Abbey Linville basket provided the response, but as time ran down, Bethel had cut the lead to 45-28 and the half came to a close.
Bethel opened the third quarter scoring, and the gap was reduced to 45-30. Taylor Rush answered on the next Lady Cat possession, but the Threshers had found some life. Continuing to chip away, Bethel was fighting to make a comeback. Baskets by Moran, Jones and Frank soon had the Lady Cats back in control and the lead was back to 23, 55-32. A Kayley Frank traditional three-point play was combined with a Tylor Rush basket and a Susie Moran put back. A pair of Moran free throws closed out the scoring and sent the contest to the quarter break with the Lady Cats leading 65-40.
The Lady Cats were 10 minutes away from victory, but the battle was far from over. Bethel continued to battle, and a pair of threes gave them a burst of momentum. An Abbey Linville basket provided the answer, and a Moran basket calmed the storm. The teams continued trading jabs and Bethel warmed up from long range, but the Lady Cats continued to answer and maintained their advantage. Bethel eventually cooled off and the Lady Cats added to their lead. Abbey Wisdom and Abbey Linville scored to build the lead to 89-60 and the Lady Cats just needed to run down the clock. With 2:21 to play, Logan Jones added to her point total and the Lady Cats were cruising. Keara Mattingley closed out the Lady Cat scoring and finished off the 93-66 win.
Kayley Frank led all scorers with 20 points, Taylor Rush added 17 and Susie Moran recorded a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Logan Jones poured in 16 points, Abbey Linville chipped in nine, Blythe Benefield added eight to go with her eight rebounds.
The Lady Cats will be back in action at Keeter Gym Friday evening at 6 PM when they host William Woods University as part of the 2023 Homecoming festivities.