It was a chance for history, but it wasn’t to be for the College of the Ozarks men and women’s basketball teams. The two squads were vying for national championships in the NAIA Division II basketball tournaments Tuesday, but only the men were successful.
College of the Ozarks, which has hosted the men’s tournament since 2000, topped Huntington University (Indiana) 74-56 to claim their first national title. They were led by tournament MVP Michael Bonaparte, who had 25 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. Teammate Heath Sitton added 17 points, six boards and four assists.
The Bobcats led 28-24 at the half before pushing their lead to as high as 20 points late in the second half.
C. of. O., which finished 29-6, also made a run to the title game in 2000, but lost. That year they needed their host exemption to get a spot in the tournament. This year, they were the fourth seed.
The women, who played earlier in the evening, couldn’t get much of anything going in their 58-39 loss to Hastings College (Nebraska). The two teams were tied at 12-12, before Hastings went on a 14-1 run to take a commanding lead that never wilted.
College of the Ozarks trailed 30-23 at the half and cut the deficit to five points with the first basket of the second half. That was as close as they got the rest of the way.
Cara Painter led the Lady Bobcats with 19 points and 10 rebounds in the loss, as College of the Ozarks finished the season with a record of 33-2. Hastings, which was 31-6, won its third national title.