Point Lookout, MO – If Homecoming games are supposed to be exciting, the College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats filled the bill Friday night at Keeter Gymnasium. Using double-double performances by Kayley Frank and Susie Moran, the Lady Cats needed an extra period to finish off the Owls of William Woods University, 82-79.
The Lady Cats jumped on the board early with Susie Moran scoring four of her 22 points in the early going. Logan Jones drained a three and Kayley Frank notched the first two points of her 22-point night to build a 9-3 lead. William Woods had trouble getting the offense going and the Lady Cats were able to capitalize. Another Jones three and buckets by Moran and Frank put the Lady Cats up 19-6 with just two minutes remaining in the opening frame. An Avery Arnold three followed an Owl basket and the Lady Cats took a 22-11 lead into the first quarter break.
The first quarter gave every indication that the game was going to be physical throughout. Both teams were aggressive defensively and neither team wanted to back down. The Owls scored the first four points of the second quarter and cut the gap to 22-15. Taylor Rush scored on a drive and Abbey Wisdom found the bottom of the net to provide the answer, and the race was on. A Blythe Benefield three at the 6:55 mark expanded the lead to double digits, and the Owls were playing catch-up. The teams would trade baskets until the 2:50 mark when WWU began to chip away at the lead. Seven unanswered points cut the Lady Cat lead to 33-29 and the battle intensified. A Benefield basket broke the drought with :31 showing on the clock, but a Katie Keilholz three sent the game to intermission with the Lady Cats clinging to a 35-32 advantage.
With the momentum clearly on the side of the visitors, the Lady cats needed to respond. Kayley Frank opened the second half scoring, but the Owls quickly countered. Frank and Moran carried the load for the Lady Cats as the Owls continued to battle back. Leading 42-38 with 6:20 left in the third, a pair of Moran buckets bumped the lead to 46-38, but the Owls came charging back. With 3:21 remaining, the lead was cut to 47-44. The teams traded baskets and Kayley Frank and Abbey Linville scored to close out the third quarter, but the Owls had trimmed the margin to 53-51.
The Lady Cats tried to provide some space with a Moran basket and a Benefield three-point play, but the Owls were not going away. With 7:04 left to play, the Owls took their first lead, and it appeared the Lady Cats were in trouble. The cold spell continued, and points were hard to come by. A Moran three-point play broke the silence, but the Owls had built a 65-61 lead. A Taylor Rush three was followed by a Frank basket and the gap was trimmed to 67-66. Rush drained a pair of free throws, and the Lady Cats regained a slim advantage. The tug of war was on and neither team was going to budge. With under a minute to play, WWU held a 70-68 lead, and the Lady Cats needed an answer. Free throws by Benefield and Frank would tie the score and the buzzer would send the game to overtime.
The five-minute period would be a back-and-forth battle with the Lady Cats striking first and maintaining a small lead. Benefield and Frank continued to answer the challenges of the Owls and with 1:18 to play, Frank scored to put the Lady Cats ahead, 78-76. An Owls free throw cut the lead in half before Benefield drained a par from the charity stripe to extend the lead to 80-77. Taylor Rush sank a free throw with :18 left on the clock and Benefield hit another free throw with :07 remaining. The Owls squeaked a shot in as time ran down, but it was not enough, and the Lady Cats sealed the 82-79 victory.
Kayley Frank logged a double-double with 22 points and 20 rebounds, while Susie Moran did the same with 22 points and 12 boards. Blythe Benefield tacked on 15 points and Taylor Rush added 10.
The Lady Cats return to action November 10-11 at the Indiana Wesleyan University Classic.