The first half of Saturday’s game at Bethany remained close, with the Tabor women not clicking on offense until after intermission. But a stifling defense that forced 20 turnovers for the game kept the Bluejays in the hunt for a 68-39 victory.
The victory improved Tabor’s record to 11-1 in the KCAC (15-7 overall) and kept the Jays in the conference lead.
“I thought that’s some of the best defense we’ve played in awhile, both halves, and that’s what kept us in the game,” coach Shawn Reed said. “That and we only had six turnovers, and so that’s excellent.”
Tabor shot 36 percent (10-28) from the field in the first half and made only five of 10 free throws.
Janelle Rust scored the Bluejays’ first eight points, contributing to an 8-4 lead with 16:02 left in the half, but the Swedes surged to tie the game at 8, and later at 10.
Tynan Honn sank back-to-back baskets for a 14-10 Tabor advantage, and 5-0 surge pushed the lead to 19-12.
“Tynan played really solid tonight, really solid at both ends of the floor,” Reed said. “Tonight was a better matchup for her. I thought she played well.”
The Swedes later tied the game at 23 with 1:18 left before half, but Jazmyne Smith and Katlyn Mary scored the final two baskets to give Tabor a 28-23 lead.
The Bluejays burst out of the locker room with a 40-16 second half, attacking from behind the arc, (6-12, 50 percent) and with improved overall shooting (14-33, 42 percent).
A two-point basket by Honn and a three-pointer by Rust, followed by a traditional three-point play by Honn, gave Tabor a 36-25 lead at 17:01.
Rust drained another three a minute later, and the Bluejays pushed the lead to 50-28 at the 9:28 mark. Tabor’s surge included two Nikki Lewis three-point baskets and additional scores by Hannah Paust and Molly Moran.
Moran hit a basket behind the arc at 8:12 and Rust again hit one later to give Tabor a 57-34 lead with 5:43 left to play.
Honn added a three-point play at 4:53, which ignited a 9-0 surge for a 66-36 lead with 1:40 left to play, for the Bluejays’ largest margin of the night.
Rust led the Tabor attack with 18 points, followed by Honn with 13. Overall, the Bluejays shot 39 percent from the field (24-61), including 36 percent from behind the arc (9-25).
With the win, Tabor improved to 11-1 in the KCAC, 15-7 overall to top the conference.
McPherson––The two halves were as different as night and day for Tabor, who shot just 14 percent from the field (5-37) in the first half but 61 percent shooting (19-31) after intermission to finish with a 74-55 victory over McPherson Wednesday.
“We didn’t execute, we didn’t run our stuff hard; it looked like we were just throwing it up there hoping it to go in,” coach Shawn Reed said about the ugly first half. “Our focus wasn’t there.”
The Bluejays jumped to a 5-0 lead on a three-point basket by Molly Moran and a basket by Tynan Honn. Tabor enjoyed a 16-8 advantage at the 10:12 mark after two free throws from Janelle Rust.
The Bluejays did a decent job on the defensive end, but their lack of offense began to take its toll. The Bulldogs closed the gap to 16-12 with 6:51 remaining, then grabbed a 20-18 lead with 1:20 left.
After Nikki Lewis tied the game from the free-throw line, a Bulldog free throw gave McPherson a 21-20 lead at the break.
“Defensively we did well,” Reed said. “I mean, we talked about one thing on defense at halftime and the rest of the time was just talking about shot selection—what you do when you’re cold, things that you need to try to do, ways that you need to think about the game.”
The Bluejays found their spark after the half, making 19 of 31 shots from the field and seven of nine from behind the arc.
Katlyn Mary scored Tabor’s first four points, but Bulldog three-point baskets contributed to a 28-24 McPherson advantage.
Molly Moran stepped up for back-to-back three-point baskets to give Tabor a 30-28.
The Bulldogs tied it at 30, but Loren Oliver’s basket behind the arc less than 30 seconds later gave the Bluejays the lead for good.
With Tabor shots falling, the Bluejays built a 48-37 with at 8:18. Tabor continued to fire from behind the arc, with Mary and Moran accounting for four three-point baskets on consecutive Bluejay possessions for a 61-44 advantage with 4:35 left in the game.
“When you hit threes, the whole game changes,” Reed said. “We’re a much better team, as anybody is, when they make outside shots.”
Firmly in the driver’s seat, the Bluejays ended the game with their largest of the night at 19 points.
Three Bluejays led the team with 14 points: Lewis, Mary and Moran. Paust added 12 points, while Rust pulled down a team-high 18 rebounds.
“We have a lot of different weapons on our team, and I think that’s really starting to show,” Reed said.
Coming––The Bluejays will host Bethel College (6-15) at 6 p.m. Thursday before going on the road to Ottawa (7-15) Saturday for a 3 p.m. tipoff.