College of the Ozarks men’s basketball becomes the first unseeded team to advance to the championship game since 2003as they upset #2 Bethel (Ind.) 73-64 in the second game of the Final Four. The Bobcats will face top-seed and Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference rival Oklahoma Wesleyan in the championship game. The 18th annual event is being held at the Keeter Gymnasium on the campus of the College of the Ozarks (Mo.).
The host Bobcats began the game on a 9-4 run, capped off by a Corey Stone three-pointer. Bethel came back to take its first lead (17-13) behind a three-pointer by Kory Lentz and a pair of baskets by William Walker. The lead switched hands two more times over the next few minutes until Bethel outscored Ozarks to take its largest lead of the game, 27-21, with 6:36 left. The Pilots took a six-point lead into the locker room as well (35-29).
With Ozarks still trailing by six early in the first half, the Bobcats rattled off four straight three-pointers, two by Colt Blair, to regain the lead, 42-39. A basket by All-American William Walker tied the game for Bethel at 44 but Ozarks followed with a 10-0 run and opened up its largest lead of the night (61-49) on a pair of free throws by Craig Campbell with 4:39 left to play. Bethel made one last charge and cut it to five on two different occasions, the last coming on a Walker field goal with 64 seconds left. Ozarks iced the game with free throws, going 6-for-8 down the stretch, led by Jared Howerton (4/4).
Ozarks shot 52% in the second half, 41% for the game, and used an outstanding perimeter attack to lead them to the victory. The Bobcats were 11-for-27 from beyond the arc, six coming in the second half. Drew Ray led four Ozarks players in double figures with 19 points, including four three-pointers. Jared Howerton chipped in 18 while Corey Stone and Colt Blair added 12 and 11 points, respectively. Ozarks held a slim 37-36 advantage on the boards, led by Howerton and Nathan Peterson with seven. Blair dished out a game-high five assists. The Bobcats’ defense held Bethel to 20 points below its tournament average.