The Tabor College women prevailed as the KCAC’s sole undefeated team after a down-to-the-wire 77-75 win at home Saturday against previously unbeaten Southwestern.
In a game played with high offensive intensity, getting to the charity stripe proved huge for the Bluejays, who cashed in on 30 of 37 free throws.
The Bluejays were slow coming out of the gate, settling for perimeter shooting instead of driving inside. Katlyn Mary opened scoring for Tabor with a three-point basket, but Southwestern took the lead at 18:29, 4-3, and then built an 18-8 lead by the 12:32 mark. The surge culminated in a 12-point margin, 28-16, with 7:38 left before half.
Momentum began to turn Tabor’s way late in the half.
“We just kind of made a little run and kind of figured some things out offensively,” coach Shawn Reed said.
Drawing fouls as they penetrated the lane, the Bluejays scored nine points from the line in the final 5:58. A 7-0 Tabor run narrowed Southwestern’s lead to 31-28 with 3:23 remaining, but the Bluejays ended the half trailing 38-33.
Tabor came out of the locker finding success with a new offensive scheme. KCAC Player of the Week Janelle Rust hit two shots on her way to a game-high 25 points, and a Southwestern turnover led to a Tabor basket by Nikki Lewis to tie the game at 42 with 17:17 to go.
“(Janelle) works very hard every day in practice, and she’s a quiet leader, and I couldn’t be happier for her,” Reed said. “She’s a wonderful young lady, and she’s been a tremendous blessing to our team. The same can be said of Nikki Lewis.”
Both teams improved offensively in the second half, with Southwestern shooting 68 percent from the field and Tabor 48 percent.
The game saw 12 lead changes. The Moundbuilders surged to a 67-61 lead with 4:43 to go, but Tabor rallied to trail by one, 67-66, at the 3:35 mark.
Rust sank a crucial, momentum-building three-point basket with 2:45 remaining to tie the game at 69.
With just under one minute left and trailing by one, 75-74, Lewis stole the ball and scored with 20 seconds left for a 76-75 Tabor lead. Tynan Honn scored the final point with a free throw.
Tabor shot 42 percent from the field, while Southwestern finished at 56 percent. Joining Rust in double digits were Lewis with 17 points and Hannah Paust with 11.
Reed expressed thanks to everyone who showed up to support the Bluejays.
“Our crowd tonight was unbelievable,” he said. “I mean, our gym was packed, and that was a huge factor for us.”
With the win, Tabor improved to 6-0 in the KCAC, 10-6 overall while Southwestern dropped to 5-1, 10-5.
Ottawa—Tabor showed little sign it was their first game back from the holiday break, starting the new year with a 10-0 burst on the way to a 56-32 home victory Thursday over Ottawa.
“We got off to a good start,” coach Shawn Reed said of the run. “We missed some opportunities, but it’s always good to start a game off that way, especially the first game back from break—get some of those jitters out, kick some of the cobwebs.”
Janelle Rust led Tabor with 20 points and 14 rebounds.
Both teams were plagued by turnovers (18 for Tabor, 21 for Ottawa), but Tabor led from start to finish.
Capitalizing on Ottawa turnovers, Rust contributed six consecutive points to end the first half. She laid in two at the 2:22 mark to give Tabor a 23-12 lead and followed with baskets at 1:24 and 1:16 to push the Bluejay margin to 27-12 at the break.
“We had some really good individual efforts,” Reed said, listing the contributions of Rust, Tynan Honn (10 points, seven rebounds), and Molly Moran (seven points, 3-for-3 from the field).
Tabor added to its lead in the second half. Honn made back-to-back shots off Ottawa turnovers, contributing to a 6-0 run. Tabor reached a game-high 28-point lead at the 5:11 mark courtesy of a three-point basket by Rust.
Although plagued by turnovers and missed shots in the first half, Tabor’s defense proved the key to success.
“I thought our defense was good in both halves, especially the first half,” Reed said. “We held them to 23 percent shooting for the game; that’s always really good. I think when you play good defense and rebound, even if you don’t shoot well, that’ll win you a lot of ball games.”
After improving to 50 percent from the field in the second half, Tabor finished with 40 percent for the night.
While the Bluejays showed positive strides in rebounding, Reed said he’d like to see improvement.
“Rebounding is something we’ve struggled with all year,” he said. “That’s something that we’re constantly working on. It’s gotten better throughout the year, but it’s something that continually needs to be improved upon.”
With the win, Tabor improved to 5-0 in the KCAC, 9-6 overall. Ottawa dropped to 1-4 and 5-10.
Coming—Tabor will travel to Leavenworth Thursday to take on Saint Mary (1-5, 5-11), then will travel to Wichita Saturday to play Friends (4-2, 10-7).