|Stacie Herman splits a double-team and looks for her shot in the first half of Tabor’s 63-57 overtime loss at Sterling.|
A 63-57 loss at Sterling saw Tabor’s fourth overtime of the season on the Warriors home floor.
“It’s always tough to go to Sterling and get a win on their court,” coach Shawn Winter said. “I think we always feel confident going over there and playing in their gym. We’ve played some of our better games there, and we definitely had our opportunities to win this game.”
If the Bluejays were a workshop, Herman was the bandsaw, weaving through everything Sterling could throw at her with few snags along the way. Joanna Pyle was like the laser level, providing precision on offense while balancing the Bluejays approach at both ends of the floor.
“We are so happy that Joanna came over to play with us this year—we wished we would have had her for four years,” Winter said. “She made a great adjustment, started almost every game for us and became more productive on both ends of the court as the season went along.”
Fellow senior Katie Fast played the part of both anvil and hammer, helping to neutralize Sterling standout Brittany Gasper with strong, physical defense, as well as pacing the Bluejays to a 50-39 rebounding advantage.
“We were more guard-oriented than we have been,” Winter said. “That required Katie to play a little bit different role, and she gave us a lot defensively, blocked a lot of shots and was really tough to score against inside.”
Fast also had a colossal block on a shot attempted by Hillary Stucky with 8:06 left in the second half.
The Bluejays had trailed 7-0 out of the gate, and wiped that deficit away with an 8-1 run, taking a 12-10 lead on a bucket by Tasia Johnson with 8:33 left in the first half.
Sterling countered with a 7-0 run, leading to 22-22 halftime score. On the final play before intermission, Herman dribbled away half of the remaining 24 seconds, then beat her mark off the dribble and threw in the game-tying score.
“Sterling is obviously well-coached, and they were going to try to take Stacie out of the game as much as possible,” Winter said. “They took some things away from her, but she’s gifted enough, smart enough and skilled enough to find other ways to score and to help the team win.
“We wanted to find a way to put the ball in her hands, to rely on the person that has been most effective for us on the court,” Winter said.
The second half saw six ties and seven lead changes as the pace of the game increased with pressure.
Tabor claimed a short-lived 44-41 lead when Herman swatted a pass attempted by Jannica Schultze back the other direction and retrieved the loose ball for a breakaway layup.
The Bluejays also led briefly when Pyle drained a 3-point shot with 3:17 to go.
But Tabor was unable to hold either lead against the KCAC regular season champions. A 3-pointer by Jacci Tinkel answered Pyle’s trey and put the Bluejays in a 51-49 hole with under three minutes left.
Herman tied it with 2:03 to go, using a pair of swishes at the foul line. After KCAC “Player of the Year” Ashley Kraft restored Sterling’s lead, Herman swished two more foul shots to send the game into overtime tied at 53.
“We had started Katie against Kraft, but when they played two or three big girls, we had to rotate her around quite a bit,” Winter said. “She ended up playing Gasper quite a bit, and we held Gasper to four points.”
The extra session tilted toward the Warriors almost from the outset. Gasper scored first, and Brittany Roth answered for Tabor. Then a field goal by Stucky and a pair of foul shots by Kraft made it 59-55 with 51 seconds to go, and the Warrior defense made that lead stand up.
Pyle scored 13 points on eleven shots—seven field goal attempts and a 4-for-4 showing at the foul line. Fast had 13 rebounds.
Kansas Wesleyan—The Bluejays regained their balance after a double-digit road loss to the Coyotes and bounced Kansas Wesleyan out of the post-season, 52-47.
“They had beaten us by 13 at their place a week earlier, and for us to beat them was a bit of a revenge factor for our team,” coach Shawn Winter said. “I was really happy with this game.”
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 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 on a pair of foul shots followed by a point-blank basket, and the visiting Coyotes had all the momentum.
Jordan Crosson broke that 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—a crowd composed mostly of band members, cheerleaders and a few heavily painted shirtless members of the Tabor men’s basketball squad—counting down from 10.
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 14 feet out on the right wing, making it 50-47 just ahead of the shot clock 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, the Bluejays 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.
The Bluejays finished 10-8 in conference play and 12-18 overall.
“Our non-conference record does not really reflect the kind of team that we had—it took us a while to put things together, and we went 5-2 to start the conference,” Winter said. “We were a couple of close games from competing for second place in the conference. We lost a triple-overtime game at Sterling, a two-point game to Bethany, and turned around and lost a four-point game to McPherson.
“Those are games we’d have liked to have back, but nonetheless, we were picked to finish sixth by the coaches and media—we finished fourth, and I couldn’t be more proud of our effort.”