The Tabor women’s post-season run ended Saturday, as the visiting third seed, Southwestern, edged the No. 2 Bluejays, 57-46.
Despite the disappointment the loss brings, coach Shawn Reed praised the efforts of his team during a season of adversity.
“I don’t think anyone has ever accomplished what our team has in one year in our league,” Reed said. “I’ve been a part of this league for 15-plus years, and I can’t ever remember anybody going from 7-21 to 20-10 and one game out of winning the conference and going to nationals.
“And we lost our best player—conference player of the year (Janelle Rust)—and we still hung in there and fought. I just think it’s a testimony to the character of our kids. I’m really proud of them.”
Saturday’s game began much the same way as the teams’ last meeting in Winfield Feb. 7. The Moundbuilders opened that game with an 11-0 run and went on to an 83-52 victory.
This time, the Moundbuilders jumped to a 9-0 lead before Tabor got on the board with a three-point basket by Nikki Lewis at 16:37.
Momentum shifted to Tabor, however, when Tynan Honn scored on a traditional three-point play, then followed with a defensive stop at the other end of the court.
Free throws by Lewis and Becky Bryan narrowed Southwestern’s lead to 11-8 with 13:35 left in the half.
Tabor again drew within three when Katlyn Mary scored off a steal, but the Moundbuilders hit a three-point basket at 9:08 to claim a 21-12 lead.
Tabor answered with a 7-0 run to draw within 21-19 at the 5:56 mark, but Southwestern bumped its advantage to 25-22 by halftime.
“We were nervous at the beginning,” Reed said. “We had a lot of people that haven’t played in games like this. We settled down, started running our stuff, started playing a little bit better defense. We rebounded really well in the first half.
“We had too many turnovers, though. That killed us.”
Tabor committed 12 turnovers in the first half and shot 26 percent from the field (7-27).
The Bluejays turned on the heat after the break, and when Mary scored at the 15:43 mark, Tabor led, 29-27.
Tabor maintained a narrow advantage until a Moundbuilder three-pointer tied the game at 32.
With the score tied at 35, the Moundbuilders hit a game-changing three-point basket to claim the lead for good, 38-35, with 11:35 to play.
Tabor managed only two baskets—both by Honn—over the next eight minutes, enabling the Moundbuilders to build a 52-39 lead with 4:20 to go.
“I thought we had them there in the second half, and we just let them back in,” Reed said. “If we could have extended it in the second half and made a couple of plays at both ends of the court, I think we would’ve won.
“I thought the momentum was on our side, and we really didn’t shoot very well.”
Amber Tamez led the Bluejays with 10 points. As a team, Tabor shot 26 percent from the field (16-62) and made only four of 21 three-point shots.
“We had some really good looks,” Reed said. “We ran some of our new plays and got some wide open threes, but we didn’t make them. If you don’t make those, you’re not going to win.”
Reed said he appreciates the support the team has received and spoke to its work ethic.
“I’m just so proud of everything they’ve done,” he said. “They never quit, never give up. They believed in each other when no one else did, and I think that’s why we were successful.”
Ottawa––Friday’s quarterfinal matchup pitted No. 2 Tabor against No. 7 Ottawa in a game that proved to be a defensive battle. The Bluejays prevailed, 44-35.
“That’s some of the best defense that we’ve played all year,” coach Shawn Reed said.
Both teams struggled to get shots to fall in a low-scoring first half. Tabor claimed a narrow lead, but a three-point Ottawa basket tied the game at five with 9:36 left. Ottawa scored nine of its first-half points from behind the arc.
The game was tied twice more before Tabor gained a bit of distance, 17-11, on three-point baskets by Molly Moran and Nikki Lewis.
The Braves answered, however, scoring five points to narrow the gap to 17-16 at the break.
“I think we were using so much energy at the defensive end it was hard for us to play with the same pace at the offensive end,” Reed said. “Sometimes that happens, and we were just kind of trying to grind it out a little bit.
“(The Braves) were playing good defense, too. They were switching a lot of stuff and just trying to create some havoc.”
In the opening minutes of the second half, the lead changed hands with every score until Lewis drained a three-point basket at 16:08 that put the Bluejays in the lead for good, 24-22.
Tynan Honn followed with a traditional three-point play 30 seconds later.
More than three minutes passed before Ottawa scored to narrow the gap to 27-24, and another two-some minutes went by before Hannah Paust cashed in on a three-point play at 9:49 for a 30-24 Tabor advantage.
Although Ottawa drew within four points a few times in the final nine minutes, Tabor maintained the lead to the end and enjoyed a nine-point advantage when time expired.
“I thought in the second half, we limited (Ottawa’s) offensive rebounds, we cut our turnovers down, and we were a little bit more efficient offensively and kept good defense up,” Reed said. “And that was the difference in the game.”