The College of the Ozarks Bobcats finished their regular season on the road at Baptist Bible College on Saturday and the second half proved to be the difference in the game. The 16-3 Patriots had defeated the Bobcats in Point Lookout earlier in the month so the challenge facing C of O was already clear. 40 minutes of solid basketball would be required if the Bobcats were going to pull out the win.
Things looked good for the Bobcats from the opening tip as Coach Shepherd had his team prepared and the execution of the game plan was underway. Kyle Flavin started the offense with a three to open the scoring. BBC answered with a two, but a pair of Josh Linehan baskets and two Matt Luebbert free throws put the Cats in front with an early 9-2 run. A BBC timeout was called and a Patriot three resulted out of the huddle. Linehan responded with a three and the game plan and preparation was paying off. BBC began to chip away at the lead and the Bobcats continued to answer. Another Linehan three was answered with a pair of Patriot threes and the Bobcat lead was cut to 17-15 with 14:46 left in the opening half. BBC tied it at the 13:46 mark and took their first lead on the next possession. Andrew Mitchell stepped up with a three to tie the score at 20 and the battle was on. The two teams would battle back and forth and neither team could grab the momentum. Several ties and lead changes ensued and with 8:31 left in the half, trailing 30-29, Bobcat point guard Kyle Flavin went down with an ankle injury. His return was questionable. A Mitchell bucket put the Bobcats back on top, but BBC quickly countered. Cooper Long entered the scoring column to regain the Bobcat lead with 7:34 left in the half but the chess match continued. With neither team willing to give up the upper hand, the series of ties and lead changes continued. The Bobcats built a six-point advantage, 46-40, on a Linehan basket at the 3:18 mark, but that would be the end of the scoring for C of O in the half. BBC rounded out their scoring with a pair of threes in the final two minutes and the game headed into the intermission deadlocked at 46-46.
Coach Shepherd and the Bobcats felt good about the game plan and the execution through the first 20 minutes. The second half, however, the Bobcats would be played without the services of injured point guard Kyle Flavin. The teams picked up where they left off before the break and the ties and lead changes continued. Trailing 50-48, the Bobcats’ Cooper Long drained a three take the lead again. The Patriots answered with a three and at the 16:42 mark, the tide began to change. A pair of unanswered BBC buckets forced a C of O timeout. Trailing 57-51, the Bobcats needed to squelch the BBC attack. Another basket for the Patriots out of the huddle and the feeling of the game had definitely changed. BBC had picked up some momentum and the Bobcats had lost their offensive rhythm. A 17-2 run ensued and another timeout was needed by the Bobcats. A Tre Flowers basket for BBC capped the 19-2 run before Tanner Diaz stopped the bleeding with a three, followed by a Garrett Simmerman two. Blaine Cline scored at the 12:05 mark for a mini 6-0 Bobcat run and the lead was cut to 69-60. The Bobcats would get no closer however, as BBC began to heat up from the field. The Bobcat offense went stagnate and the Patriots began to pull away. What was a very tight and hard fought battle in the opening 30 minutes had rapidly slipped out of control. As time continued to wind down, the Bobcat hopes began to do the same. The Bobcats could only keep pace with the Patriots as they pulled out the 99-80 win.
The Bobcats were led by Josh Linehan with 18 points. Blaine Cline added 14 and Cooper Long 11 to round out the double figure scorers. Andrew Mitchell added seven points to the cause while Tanner Rogers, Matt Luebbert, Garrett Simmerman, and Buck Sanders each contributed six. Kyle Flavin and Drew Vashon chipped in three each.
The Bobcats will begin post-season play this Thursday, March 3 at Baptist Bible College in the NCCAA Regional Tournament. Game times are 5:00 and 7:00 Thursday with the #2 and #3 seeds playing the 5:00 contest and the #1 and #4 seeds facing off at 7:00. The pairings will be released on Tuesday.