The Tabor women found their spark at the end of the first half Saturday night and held on for an 81-77 victory at Kansas Wesleyan.
It was a slow start for the Bluejays, however, as the Coyotes surged to a 16-4 double-digit lead eight minutes into the game. But after a Tabor timeout, the Bluejays used a 7-0 run to draw within five, 16-11, when Nikki Lewis drained a three-point basket.
Lewis contributed two more baskets behind the arc in the next three minutes, helping Tabor narrow the Coyote lead to 21-19 with 6:54 left in the half.
But Kansas Wesleyan built a nine-point, 32-23, lead at 2:46 when Tabor shots refused to fall.
But the Bluejays turned on the heat in the final minutes of the half, outscoring the home team 11-1 to take a 34-33 lead into the locker room after Katlyn Mary hit a basket with one second left.
Kansas Wesleyan regained the lead less than one minute into the second half, but Mary bumped the score back to the Bluejays’ favor, 43-41, with a three-point basket at 17:30.
After the Coyotes evened the score half a minute later, it was again Mary who gave Tabor the edge with a basket behind the arc, this time with 16:09 left to play.
Kansas Wesleyan took the lead two more times before Lewis and Mary hit back-to-back three-point baskets to put Tabor in the lead for good, 54-52, with 11:11 left.
The Bluejays took their largest lead, 68-59, with 4:37 on the clock when Molly Dick scored, but Kansas Wesleyan battled to within three, 70-67, at 1:46.
Molly Moran drained a three-pointer at 1:04, but the Coyotes scored 20 seconds later to draw within 75-69 and began sending the Bluejays to the charity stripe.
Dick hit two free throws with 45 seconds left, but the Coyotes drained a three-point basket seven seconds later and followed, after a missed Tabor free throw, with a basket that narrowed Tabor’s lead to 77-74 with 19 seconds remaining.
Moran made one of two from the charity stripe, but the Coyotes drained another three-pointer to draw within 78-77 with 11 seconds on the clock.
Mary sank two free throws, and the next Kansas Wesleyan shot missed its mark.
Dick scored Tabor’s final point with one second left to seal the Tabor victory, who improved to 15-3 in the KCAC, 19-9 overall to remain tied in the KCAC with Southwestern and earn the No. 2 seed in the post-season tournament.
Friends––Tabor and Friends entered Thursday’s matchup each vying for sole rights to the top conference spot.
When time expired, the Bluejays were on the short end of a 42-34 score, after struggling to get shots to fall against a tough Falcon zone defense.
It was something the Bluejays had seen before. “(The Falcons) played zone against us the entire game at Friends, so we were prepared for it this time,” coach Shawn Reed said.
The Bluejays finished the night with 25 percent shooting (13-53), but made only two of 24 three-point shots.
The game began with Tabor building an 11-5 lead when Hannah Paust scored with 11:02 left in the opening half. But Tabor stalled at 11, and could not get a shot to fall the next six and a half minutes.The half ended with an 18-14 Friends lead.
After a Friends three-point basket eight seconds into the second half, Mary scored three straight baskets to narrow the gap to 21-20 at 16:14.
Tabor again drew within one, 25-24, on a Nikki Lewis basket at 12:45, and the Bluejays found a small spark when Mary scored off a steal and followed with a three-point basket less than one minute later to draw within 33-31 at 8:08.
Reed said the Tabor defense kept the Bluejays in the game. But Tabor turnovers and missed shots contributed to a 7-0 Falcon surge that left the home team trailing by nine, 31-40, with 4:17 left to play.
Amber Tamez got a shot to fall with 1:54 remaining, and Lewis scored Tabor’s final point from the charity stripe, but Friends held on for the eight-point victory, boosting the Falcons into first place in the conference.
With the loss, Tabor dropped to 14-3 in the KCAC, 18-9 overall and entered a second-place tie with Southwestern College.
Mary led the Bluejays with a game-high 16 points.
Coming––As the No. 2 seed in the post-season tournament, the Tabor women will host No. 7 Ottawa (9-19, 5-13) Thursday at 7 p.m.