In 2000, College of the Ozarks hosted the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship for the first time. That year, the Bobcats wouldn’t have qualified for the tournament, but were able participate because of their host exemption. That year they roared to an improbable run to the championship game. They lost that game.
On Monday, fourth-seeded College of the Ozarks earned a trip back to the national title with an 88-69 win over eighth-seeded Lindenwood University of St. Charles, Missouri in the semifinals. Heath Sitton led C. of. O. with 25 points, while Michael Bonaparte added 21. Johnny Viehland was the leading scorer for the Lions with a 18 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots. They finished the season with a 26-10 mrak, whil College of the Ozarks improved to 28-6.
Their opponent will be Huntington University (Indiana) which beat MidAmerica Nazarene (Kansas) 78-68.
It could be a double championship day for College of the Ozarks, as their women advanced to the NAIA Division II tournament in Sioux City, Iowa with a 67-65 win over St. Francis (Indiana). College of the Ozarks trailed by six at halftime and missed their first ten shots of the second half. They trailed by as many as 13 points before rallying to the victory. There were 10 lead changes in the final 4:35 of the game and C. of. O. took their final lead when Cara Painter hit a three-pointer with 1:36 to go, breaking a 60-60 tie.
Painter finished with a game-high 26 points, while teammate Magan Curry added 20. Painter also pulled down nine rebounds and blocked four shots. Her final swat came with one second to go, on a shot by St. Francis’ Tara Dice, which would have won the game.
College of the Ozarks, which also went to the national championship game and lost in 1999, will face Hastings College of Nebraska in the final Tuesday night. They advanced with a 63-50 win over Northwestern (Iowa). Hastings will try to become the first team to win three NAIA Division II Women’s National Championships.