Bobcats Come Up Short In Regional Play
The College of the Ozarks Bobcats opened NCCAA Regional play Thursday looking to finish strong and extend their season into March. Traveling to Baptist Bible College, the Bobcats were set to face the Patriots for the second time in a week and the third time this season. The Patriots had taken the first two contests and the Bobcats knew they would have to play well to keep their post-season hopes alive.
The first half was a battle from the opening tip as the teams traded baskets. The Patriots took the early lead, but the Bobcats stormed back and set the tone early. BBC opened the game on a 7-2 run, but Matt Luebbert hit the first three shots for the Bobcats to get things rolling. The Bobcats took their first lead on a Tanner Rogers basket at the 15:37 mark but BBC quickly responded. C of O continued to apply pressure and regained the lead on the next possession. The teams traded baskets over the next three minutes and with 12:20 remaining in the half, the score was knotted at 18-18. The defense for both teams then took over and neither team could find the bottom of the net. At the 9:07 mark, the Patriots broke through to regain the lead, 20-18. Blain Cline answered for the Bobcats and Tanner Diaz put the Bobcats back on top. Ties and lead changes would continue until BBC went up 28-25 with 4:56 remaining. Cooper Long drained a three with 1:36 left in the half to get the Bobcats to within one, 32-31, but a pair of Tre Flowers free throws gave the Patriots a 34-31 advantage heading into the break.
The Bobcats started strong in the second half and continued to keep pace with the Patriots. A Tanner Diaz three at the 18:11 mark tied the score 38-38. It looked as though this game would go down to the wire. The Patriots answered the challenge and continued to hold onto a narrow advantage. Trailing 42-40, Tanner Diaz tied it again with a mid-range jumper. BBC answered again and Diaz responded. Diaz drained a three with 13:57 remaining and the score was knotted up 45-45. BBC could not shake the Bobcats, but they did all that was necessary to maintain a slight advantage. Pulling away slightly, the Patriots sank a free throw to go up 51-45. Tanner Rogers scored on the next possession and the BBC lead was back to four with 11:54 left to play. Another Patriot basket extended the gap to six and the biggest advantage they’d enjoyed since the early going. Things then began to get shaky. The Bobcats hit a cold streak offensively and the Patriots began to capitalize. A Ryker Strong basket at the 9:25 mark extended the gap to eight and forced a Bobcat timeout. The cold shooting continued out of the huddle and the Bobcats did not find the bottom of the net again until the 7:41 mark. Fortunately for the Bobcats, the Patriots luck had not been much better, and the gap stood at seven, 56-49. Points were coming in at a trickling pace for the Bobcats, but the Patriots managed to get into more of a flow. Slowly the lead began to grow, and the Bobcats were not heating up offensively. A pair of Josh Linehan free throws cut the gap to eight with 5:29 remaining but there was not a good feeling among the Bobcat faithful in attendance. A pair of BBC free throws and a basket extended the gap to 12 and the Bobcats time was running out. Another BBC free throw made it 69-56 with 3:36 remaining. The Bobcats were still struggling to score, and the Patriots were building their lead. As time continued to run down, five straight points by Andrew Mitchell cut the lead to 73-62 but the Bobcats ran out of time and could not get any closer.
The Bobcats were led by Cooper Long with 14 points, Tanner Diaz with 13, and Tanner Rogers with 11. Matt Luebbert chipped in nine, Andrew Mitchell added seven, and Josh Linehan and Blaine Cline each contributed four.
The loss concluded the season for the Bobcats. With no seniors on this year’s squad, the younger players for the Bobcats gained some valuable experience and will look to build on that experience in the future.