Written by Andrew Ottoson Wednesday, 27 February 2008 15:54
If basketball games were decided like Olympic figure skating--on largely subjective estimates of the quality of a performance based on aesthetics and degree of difficulty--the Tabor College women's basketball team would have defeated Kansas Wesleyan by considerably more than five points, 52-47, Wednesday night in Hillsboro. But even in that case, Stacie Herman would have earned a gold medal for her game-breaking acrobatic 2-point pullup jumper with a hair more than nothing left on the shot clock.
Herman's pivotal score came with the Bluejays ahead 48-47 after their 32-21 halftime lead dried to nothing with 1:39 left. Kayleen Dittmer tied the game for Kansas Wesleyan with a pair of foul shots followed by a point-blank basket, and the visiting Coyotes had all the momentum.
Jordan Crosson broke the tie with a foul shot with 1:16 remaining, and the Tabor defense dialed up its intensity, forcing a shot clock violation with 45 seconds left. The Bluejays then used every last tick of their shot clock, putting the ball in Herman's capable hands near the top of the arc with some in the student section--composed mostly of band members, cheerleaders and a few heavily-painted shirtless members of the Tabor men's basketball squad--counting down from ten. Herman put a move on, dribbling to her right and escaping one defender only to be met by another. She pulled up as the crowd called out "one!" and threw a fadeaway dagger from perhaps 14 feet out on the right wing side, making it 50-47 just ahead of the buzzer.
The Coyotes, forced to fire up a 3-pointer, were unable to find the mark and lost the ball out of bounds to Tabor with 3 seconds to go. Herman was whacked on the inbounds and rendered the rest of the contest moot with a pair of foul shots.
Herman may have been the only Bluejay with ice water running in her veins, as the team scored only one other field goal in the final 10:47 of the game. But in the first half, Tabor as a team shot a sizzling 14-for-27 from the field and made four of eight 3-pointers in the process.
Kirsten Watson put back-to-back triples on the board to end the first frame, and Tabor finished on a 12-4 run. The stretch of strong play continued into the second half, resulting in a 12-point Bluejay lead with 10:47 left. Herman nailed a 3-pointer after tracking down back-to-back offensive rebounds on Tabor's possession at 12:42. Crosson then scored back-to-back field goals—one a layup set up by Watson, the other a jumper set up by Chelsea Malone—and made it a 7-1 run in Tabor's favor.
Shortly thereafter, Herman went to the bench with her third foul—a mild bump on LaCole Wilkenson at 11:18—and the Coyotes scored eight straight points in a 13-4 run. Malone spotted up for a critical jumper from the center of the circle above the lane with 6:02 left, blunting the 8-0 stretch and preserving the lead Tabor had grabbed 5:33 into the game.
Herman led all scorers with 19 points.
Tabor will travel to Sterling Saturday for a 2 p.m. contest that will determine one of the berths in the conference final. Sterling is the tournament's top seed and holds home court advantage throughout. If the Bluejays advance to the championship by defeating the Warriors, the final will be played 7 p.m. Monday at either McPherson College or Southewestern College in Winfield.