PHOTOS BY ALLYSON PELCHAT
VIDEO BY MASON LINDBLOOM
The College of the Ozark fans were out in full force as usual at the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship for their No. 7 seeded Bobcats as they took on No. 2 Saint Xavier. The crowd and Ozarks play were too much for the Cougars to handle as Ozarks defeated Saint Xavier 68-43.
The Bobcats’ main dilemma would be to try and contain the nation’s leading rebounder, Morgan Stuut, who had brought down 414 prior to the game. Stuut also lead’s the Cougars in points and was once again the top scorer for Saint Xavier with 14 points and 13 rebounds. However, the Bobcats’ had control the whole game led by Alice Heinzler with 18 points.
“We looked at her tendencies and I looked at game film; we knew what to expect from her and we wanted to make sure we always had help side because of their tendency to pull everyone high from her,” said Ozark head coach Becky Vest.
Foul trouble was also a concern for Saint Xavier as Stuut got her fourth with seven minutes left in the second and Jordan Brandt went into the half with four. The Bobcats were able to maintain a steady lead throughout the rest of the game led by their defense and second chance opportunities. The Cougars would never cut the lead closer than 14 points the rest of the game and Stuut was still not able to find her rhythm.
The lead in the second half grew to as much as 27 points and the Ozarks’ sixth man didn’t let up. The momentum favored the Bobcats the entire game, with all players getting involved in helping to spread the floor and get them open shots, including looking to their bench to pour in 16 points.
“We knew we had to attack their zone and we did a good job of that in the first half. We wanted to maintain our poise and composure the entire game. We wanted to limit their key players,” said Vest.
The Cougars fell behind by as many as 19 points in the first half as the long range shots were falling for the Bobcats who hit 4 of 9 from beyond the arc in the half. Ozarks also out rebounded the Cougars in the half 23 to 19 and forced 11 turnovers which resulted in 13 points in the first. Ozarks was led by Alice Heinzler with 10 points in the half which helped to extend their lead into half 41-21.
“At halftime, I went in there and the only thing I told them was that we needed to play to win instead of just playing not to lose; that was the only thing that I told them and we kept at it,” said Vest.
With the first round victory, College of the Ozarks will now move into the second round of the Championships and will take on the winner of No. 6 Cornerstone and No. 3 Mayville State Friday at 12 p.m. at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. Saint Xavier ends their season with a 27-6 record.