ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
When Tabor’s relatively inexperienced women’s team desperately needed some veteran leadership against Ottawa University Saturday night, Janea Rademacher delivered big time.
Twice in the second half, the 5-10 senior from Colorado almost singlehandedly derailed Ottawa rallies with her scoring and aggressive play, enabling the Jays to nail down a much-needed 82-72 victory.
Rademacher not only scored 15 of her career-high 19 points in the second half, but her rebounding and hustle at critical moments kept the Jays in control of the game.
Her first intervention came when a 13-point lead Tabor had established late in the first half dwindled to three points, 40-37, early in the second half.
After freshman Carmen Hein scored on a steal, Rademacher registered the next six Tabor points with a field goal and four-for-four free-throw shooting to bump the lead back to 10.
Then, with about six minutes to play, the Braves had again closed the gap to three points, 66-63.
Rademacher came off the bench, hit a 3-pointer and two 2-point baskets on Tabor’s next three possessions, pulled down a pair of key rebounds, then dove for a jump ball that led to an Amber McKillip free throw and a 74-64 Bluejay lead that buried the Braves for good.
Rademacher said she was on no particular mission when she reentered the game.
“I wasn’t thinking anything,” she said. “Things just happened, I guess. I knew it was toward the end of the game and we needed to keep our lead up. I think just playing with the group we had in at the time, we all just kind of fired each other up.”
With the win, the Bluejays broke a three-game losing streak in KCAC play and evened their season record at 7-7.
Head coach Chanda Rigby said Rademacher’s play was “huge.”
“We were coming off a little losing spell here and to have somebody come in with that kind of emotion-I just wish every senior could have that kind of game at least once,” Rigby said. “It was an incredible effort.”
Beyond Rademacher’s heroics, Tabor got a strong and steady offensive performance from freshman Angela Kroeker. The 5-8 forward from Hillsboro scored most of her team-leading 22 points by driving to the basket against the Braves’ inside muscle and by cashing in on an effective fast-break attack that was fueled by 19 Bluejay steals.
“They flew down the court on the fast break and we really got a lot out of it,” Rigby said. “That should have been our game all year, and we keep practicing it. But it has never really come together for us until tonight.”
For the second straight game, Tesha Werth lead the defensive effort with seven steals.
Sterling-Tabor played well for the first and last 10 minutes of its game against 15th-ranked Sterling Thursday night in Hillsboro. But the middle 20 minutes did the Bluejays in as the Warriors claimed an 82-72 victory.
A back-to-back 3-point and 2-point field goals by senior Janea Rademacher gave the Bluejays their biggest lead of the game, 14-10, with 14:38 to play in the first half.
Sterling, slowed by injury and illness, responded with nine straight points-including five-for-five free-throw shooting-to retake a lead which they never relinquished.
Still, the Bluejays trailed only 21-17 when a pair of free throws by Sterling’s Amber Glover ignited a 14-2 run that stretched the Warriors’ lead to 16 points with five minutes to play until halftime.
Sterling led 45-28 at intermission, then expanded their advantage to a high of 23 points, 63-40, with just under 12 minutes to play.
Tabor’s Carmen Hein then nailed a 3-pointer that started the Jays on the long road back into contention.
Over the next nine minutes, the Bluejay defense held the Warriors to only two field goals and six free throws.
Over the same stretch, Susan Carter broke loose for 11 points as Tabor pulled to within five, 73-68, with 3:03 to play and the crowd on its feet.
But Kristina Barrow, a thorn in Tabor’s flesh all night, hit a field goal and free throw for a three-point play, then Rachel Derstein and Jara Coles each hit a pair of free throws to squelch Tabor’s comeback.
Barrow finished the game with a staggering 38 points, shooting 13-of-20 from the field and 12-of-15 from the line. She scored Sterling’s first eight points of the game and had 21 by intermission.
“I thought we had decided at halftime to stop her in the second half, but I guess we didn’t,” said head coach Chanda Rigby.
The first-year coach was pleased with the way her team finished the game.
“They never gave up-and the never do,” she said. “We just need to keep from digging ourselves into such a deep hole.”
She said her team is still missing too many shots from short range and allowing far too many points at the free-throw line.
The Warriors were 29 for 35 from the charity stripe. Tabor was 25 of 32.
Freshman Angela Kroeker led the Jays with 15 points, including five of six free throw attempts; Carter finished with 13 points and was five-for-five from the line; Rademacher broke double figures with 11 and hit four of six free throws.
Tesha Werth once again fueled the Tabor defense, collecting seven steals against Sterling. She also added eight points, including six of seven free throws.
Coming-Tabor has a full week ahead. On Thursday, the Jays travel to Salina to take on Kansas Wesleyan at 6 p.m. On Saturday, they travel to North Newton to play Bethel College starting at 5 p.m. On Monday they will host the St. Mary College Spires at 6 p.m.