College of the Ozarks Bobcats head coach, Steve Shepherd has been encouraging his guys to compete and develop toughness in the shortened season. With a roster of younger players, the Bobcats have been growing and developing game by game and Friday afternoon, was another opportunity to take forward steps.
Hosting the John Brown University Golden eagles, the Bobcats were playing their one and only home game of the season and the challenge from Coach Shepherd remained the same - compete and develop toughness. While the result on the scoreboard was not the desired outcome, there was still forward movement for the Bobcats as they accepted the challenge and took it to heart.
The first half would be a continuous tug of war as neither team could get momentum on their side. A basket by one team was answered by the other. Baskets by Treydon Rackley, Josh Linehan, Ayden Stone, and Tanner Diaz would be the answers provided by the Bobcats, as Luke Harper, Brenton Toussaint, and Ira Perrier carried the load for the Golden Eagles. With 14:14 left in the half, the score was knotted at 9 apiece. Baskets by Ira Perrier and Luke Harper would give JBU a 13-9 lead at the 13:24 mark. The Bobcats would respond with back to back baskets by Ayden Stone to tie the score again. Josh Linehan and Andrew Mitchell would each hit a three followed by a JBU basket by DJ Ellis. Linehan would add another two and it was 21-15 Bobcats, with 8:17 to play in the half. Baskets would continue to be traded back and forth over the next several minutes and the Bobcats would hold onto a narrow lead. JBU would tie the score at 26 with a Densier Carnes three and follow up with four more unanswered points for a 7-0 run. Ayden Stone muscled in a shot with :29 seconds remaining and the Bobcats would trail at the half, 30-28.
The second half began as a defensive battle. Neither team would score until the 16:22 mark, when James Beckom hit a JBU basket off of a Bobcat turnover. Treydon Rackley opened the scoring for the Bobcats with a free throw at the 16:14 mark, then hit another two followed by a Garret Simmerman three to beat the shot clock. 35-34 JBU with 14:48 to play. The Golden Eagles would go on a 5-0 run before the Bobcats would score on a basket by Treydon Rackley. Noah Taylor began heating up from the outside and hit the first of several threes to open up the lead for JBU, 43-36. The Bobcats found themselves down by seven and it seemed to be an uphill climb the rest of the way. The Bobcats would challenge, JBU would answer. By the 7:03 mark, the Bobcats were down by ten. A basket by Matt Luebbert with 4:11 to play would cut the lead to six, 55-49 and it seemed like the Bobcats were set to make a run. The Golden Eagles however, were not content with the five point lead. They would build the lead back to eight before a three by Andrew Mitchell from deep in the left corner would cut it back to five. The Bobcats battled but could not overcome the deficit. Made free throws by the Golden Eagles would seal the win as time ran out and hand the Bobcats a 66-57 defeat.
Coach Steve Shepherd commented after the game, “I am really proud of our guys for their effort and competitiveness tonight. We battled with a lot of heart and showed what Bobcat Basketball can be as we move forward. We defended well, rebounded well, and all-in-all, played with a lot of passion.”
The Bobcats led the Golden Eagles in most every statistical category. A few more turnovers than desired gave the Golden Eagles extra shot opportunities and that was the difference in the game.
The Bobcats were led by senior guard, Treydon Rackley with 20 points. Ayden Stone added 13 points and nine rebounds. Josh Linehan chipped in eight points, Andrew Mitchell - six, Matt Luebbert – five, Garrett Simmerman – three, and Tanner Diaz added two.
The Bobcats are hoping to compete in the A.I.I. Conference Tournament next weekend. Regardless of their status next week, the Bobcats have developed and shown promise as they continue to move forward with C of O Basketball.