Story provided by Jake Knabel, NAIA Assistant Media Coordinator
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – (Box Score) Thursday evening's first-round matchup at the NAIA Division II Women's Basketball Championships featured one side with 35 all-time national tournament wins and another still seeking its first. Perennially powerful College of the Ozarks (Mo.) made it a runaway while getting a dominant performance from sophomore Kelsie Cleeton. Seeded second, the Lady Bobcats eliminated seventh-seeded Reinhardt (Ga.), 81-62.
Head coach Becky Vest's squad now stands at 27-4 overall and has advanced to the second round where it will meet either third-seeded Morningside (23-8) or sixth-seeded Siena Heights (Mich.) (24-9) at 7 p.m. on Friday. On the other hand, the Lady Eagles end their season with a 27-6 overall record
College of the Ozarks took complete control by concluding the first half on a 14-2 run that put it front, 42-25, at the break. Cassidy Johnson sent the Lady Bobcats to their locker room with momentum after she chucked in a long trey just before the buzzer sounded. Johnson could hardly miss. She went 7-for-9 from the field, including 4-for-5 from 3-point range, in the process of piling up a game high 18 points.
The inside-outside combo of Cleeton and Johnson made life difficult on Reinhardt, which found itself down by 28 points in the fourth quarter. It failed to whittle its deficit to any less than 19 points in the final stanza. Cleeton posted a double-double, going for 13 points and 14 rebounds to go along with six assists. Madisen Brethower racked up 18 points (6-for-6 free throw shooting). Ozarks went 8-for-19 from beyond the arc.
Rebecca Cheeks never stopped working inside for the Lady Eagles. She put away 17 points and snared 19 rebounds. Teammate Jada Hubbard added 16 points. As a team, Reinhardt shot only 34.3 percent from the floor and had six more turnovers than College of the Ozarks.
The Lady Bobcats are now 36-21 all-time (17-5 in first-round games) at the national championships. They remain in search of that elusive national title. College of the Ozarks has finished as the national runner up five times in its history. Meanwhile, Reinhardt has fallen in the first round in both of its trips to Sioux City.