Squaring off for the second time inside a week, it's a safe bet to say the Thayer Lady Bobcats and Couch Lady Indians knew what to expect from each other heading into their Dec. 12 rematch at Thayer.
While the end result may have been the same as when the two teams locked up in the finals of the Van Buren Lady Dawg Tournament earlier in the week, the Lady Indians certainly put up a tough fight, falling just a couple of points away from victory, as the Lady Bobcats escaped with a 51-48 win.
With 26 ticks left in the game, Couch's April Redus (18 points) sank two free throws to pull the Lady Indians within two points at 50-48.
After Lady Bobcat Summer Jones (seven points) added a point from the charity stripe to put Thayer up 51-48, the Lady Indians headed down court looking to spring someone loose for the game-tying trey with 22 seconds on the clock.
The Lady Cats had other ideas, forcing a jump ball that gave them ownership via alternating possession with 16 seconds left to play.
Thayer inbounded the ball and went downcourt with the Lady Indians unable to stop the clock with a foul as the Lady Bobcats played keep-away to run out the clock.
Scoring was at a premium in the first period as Couch struggled to find a shot, while the Lady Bobcats missed several layups and point-blank hoops.
Thayer did string together five unanswered points to take a 10-4 lead after one, holding the Lady Indians to just one field goal, a jumper from Caitlyn Melton (nine points), in the frame.
The Lady Indians had better luck in the second period as they sprinted out to a 7-0 run, aided by a couple of Thayer turnovers, to take their first lead of the game, 11-10, at the 5:11 mark.
The lead switched sides a couple of times late in the second as Kim LaBahn (nine points) posted four straight points in the paint, before the Lady Bobcats closed the frame with four points from Megan Underwood to take a 23-20 lead to the break.
Underwood paced the Lady Cats with a game high 27 points.
Both teams warmed up a little from the field in the third, with Lashanda Horton (five points) knocking in Thayer's first 3-pointer, only to be answered by a 3-bomb from Redus for Couch that drew the Lady Indians within one, 38-37, late in the period.
That would be as close as the Lady Indians could get, as Thayer hung on in the fourth to claim a tight 51-48 win.
Sarah Prewitt added six points for the Lady Cats, while Sarah Caldwell and Kylee McAlmond followed with three each.
Tonya Combs tallied six points for Couch, followed by Sandy LaBahn with four, and Ashley Hale two for the Lady Indians.
Going into their matchup with the Thayer Bobcats, the Couch Indians knew the best bet for them to post a victory would be to engage the Bobcats in a half-court, physical matchup that neutralized Thayer's advantage in speed and quickness. While the Indians got the kind of game they preferred, they didn't get the results they wanted, as the Bobcats won 62-47 in a very physical contest that saw several players on both sides gain new bumps and bruises.
The Bobcats, while not looking smooth on the offensive end, won the game by getting of to a quick start, and outscoring Couch 28-7 from the free throw line for the game, including 11-4 in the second half when the Indians tried to make a late run.
Adam Crowder started the Indians off with a layup to put Couch on top 2-0, but unfortunately for the Indians, it would be awhile before they advanced the scoreboard again.
Thayer ripped off 18 unanswered points to climb on top 18-2, as Brett Ward (16 points) tossed in five straight points, although it seemed like he spent a good deal of time getting knocked to the floor hard during the first half.
Regrouping a bit, Couch ended the first on a 6-2 run, thanks in part to a 3-ball from Derrick Bennett (eight points), to trail 22-10 after one. The Bobcats continued to add to their margin in the second period, as John Tollenaar (seven points) banged in Thayer's first trey on the night late in the period.
Thayer had the Indians doubled at the half, 40-20, as Brad Orahood finished the second for Couch with a layup that may have sent a little dose of momentum to the Indian locker room at the break.
The Bobcats had trouble scoring to start the third as Couch, helped with some Thayer miscues, strung together a run to start the frame.
A 10-zip run, including treys from Bennett and Kevin Price, pulled Couch within 12, 44-32, at the 2:23 mark of the period.
The Couch comeback stalled out at that point as the Bobcats ended the period with five straight points, including a two-handed throw-down by Josh Wemlinger (nine points) that gave Thayer a 49-32 lead after three.
Aaron Henry steadied the Bobcat ship in the last period, scoring seven of his team-high 17 points as Thayer kept in front on their way to a 62-47 win.
Kevin Price tallied a game high 25 points for the Indians.
Matt Deckard posted five points for Couch, while B.J. Sorrell added four, and EZ Dahlke one for the Indians.
Layne Hawkins tossed in six points for Thayer, Andrew Eckman added four, and Dustin Gaines one.