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Ozarks halt Mountaineers’ ascent

College of the Ozarks' #11, Kelsey Combs, reaches for the ball in the first half of the game with #34, Brooke Randall of Eastern Oregon. PHOTO: Caitlin Hein

Eastern Oregon looked to continue its Cinderella story through the NAIA Division II Women’s National Tournament but had to get through the College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats first. The Mountaineers came up short, falling to Ozarks 74-55.

In order for Eastern Oregon to win this one they had to find a way to control the tempo and to start the game. They were able to do just that, speeding up the game enough to keep Ozarks off balance and get a 10-8 lead midway through the first half.

“We had to get down the floor,” said George Wilson, head coach of College of the Ozarks. “I thought we did a nice job with that even with some interruptions with things like fouls but we did a nice job getting it down the court and getting into our offense.”

No 1 seed Ozarks never quit, looking to avoid the slow start they had against Hastings College on Friday afternoon. The Lady Bobcats shot 39 percent through the first half while Eastern Oregon shot 25 percent.  The Mountaineers had nine missed three-point attempts, which contributed greatly to 17 defensive rebounds by the Lady Bobcats.

Ozarks headed into the locker room having achieved their goal of a fast start and led the Mountaineers 33-23.

The second half started with the Lady Bobcats doing what they could to get into back into the first-half rhythm. They managed to maintain their halftime lead of ten points until the Mountaineers cut it down to six on a Kyle Miller shot at the 13-minute mark.

Lethargic shooting throughout the game constantly hindered the Mountaineers, whose shooting average stayed at 25 percent in the second half and had trouble cutting the lead back down after being within six points earlier in the half.

“A couple times we had to switch people out because of some poor match ups,” said Wilson. “We knew we had to get out and guard the threes and we did a really good job of that today. We tried to challenge them as best we could.”

The clock struck midnight on Eastern Oregon’s Cinderella story and College of the Ozarks will next play on Monday at 8 p.m. against the winner of the Grand View versus Concordia (Neb.) game Friday at 8 p.m.

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