Open menu

Lady Cats Close Season In NAIA National Tournament

Mar 16, 2024

Lady Cats
Lady Cat Basketball 2023-24

Dubuque, IA – After a two year absence from the NAIA, the College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats returned in 2023-24 and qualified for the National Championship Tournament by winning the Continental Athletic Conference tournament. While the NAIA tournament seeding was not as high as was expected, the Lady Cats had accomplished a top goal and looked forward to facing off against the #5 team in the country, the Pride of Clarke University.

The Lady Cats jumped on the board first with a Kayley Frank three and Clarke answered with a two. The defense for both teams took over and neither team would score again until a Clarke basket at the 5:27 mark. Another CU basket would give them a 6-3 advantage and the Lady Cat offense was still silent. A Blythe Benefield basket at the 3:58 mark broke through, but the defense for both teams continued to hold strong. A Susie Moran bucket cut the Clarke lead to 8-7 before a three extended the gap with 2:09 left in the opening frame. Kayley Frank drained a free throw and Taylor Rush sank a pair to the close out the scoring and Clarke held an 11-10 lead at the first break.

A pair of Susie Moran baskets and a three from Avery Arnold gave the Lady Cats a 17-16 lead, with 7:43 left in the half. The lead was short lived however, as Clarke responded with a quick two. The Clarke basket started an 8-0 run before Kayley Frank broke the silence with a basket at the 5:07 mark. Abbey Linville connected on a traditional three-point play to cut the deficit to 24-22 and the teams began trading jabs. A Frank jumper tied the score at 28 and Moran returned the lead to the Lady Cats with a free throw at the 2:16 mark. Clarke closed out the quarter with a 7-1 run and the Lady Cats trailed 35-30 at the intermission.

Holding their own against one of the top teams in the country, the Lady Cats were looking to make a run in the final 20 minutes of play. The Pride opened the scoring in the third quarter to take a 37-30 lead before a Susie Moran basket provided the answer. A Moran layup and a Frank three kept the Lady Cats within striking distance but a pair of Clarke threes increased the gap and put the Lady Cats in a hole. A cold streak ensued, and the third quarter drought spelled trouble for the Lady Cats. Clarke built a 53-39 advantage and seemed to be taking control as the period came to a close.

The fourth quarter saw the home team begin to pull away and baskets by Moran and Linville were not enough to swing the momentum. The Lady Cats were only able to keep pace where they needed a run to make up ground. Kayley Frank and Logan Jones added to the Lady Cat total, but the Clarke defense prevented a Lady Cat run, and time was winding down. Free throws by Moran and Linville closed out the Lady Cat scoring and Clarke held off the Lady Cat challenges to take the contest, 80-61.

Susie Moran led the Lady Cats with 24 points and 15 rebounds while Kayley Frank added 17 points in her final game as a Lady Cat. Logan Jones chipped in four points, Avery Arnold added three, and Taylor Rush and Blythe Benefield added two each.

While the exit from the tournament was disappointing, the Lady Cats have a lot to be proud of in the 2023-24 campaign. Finishing with a 25-7 record, winning the conference tournament championship, having the Continental Athletic Conference Player and Coach of the Year (Kayley Frank and Becky Mullis), Susie Moran leading the NAIA with 14.9 rebounds per game, setting the single season rebounding mark with 477, and returning to the NAIA National Championship Tournament, are all benchmarks that will help build upon the foundation for the future. Congratulations to the Lady Bobcats and we look forward to more great things to come in the years ahead.