ORIGINALLY WRITTEN MATT INSLEY
Despite a valiant effort, the Tabor College womens’ basketball season came to an end Wednesday night in Lindsborg. Bethany College beat the Bluejays 81-64 in the quarterfinals of the KCAC tournament.
The game was much closer than the final score indicated. Despite shooting only 33 percent for the game and committing 22 turnovers, Tabor never let the Swedes out of their sight.
Each time Bethany attempted to make a big run to put the game away, the Jays stiffened on defense and made a run of their own to get back in it.
Unfortunately for the Bluejays, Bethany could not be overtaken. The Swedes won the conference last season, and many of their veterans were back on the court this year.
Tabor head coach Chanda Rigby said Bethany’s experience was important.
“They did what a seasoned team does and remained poised,” she said. “That won them the game.”
Early in the contest, it appeared Bethany would win the game easily. The Swedes, who shot 51 percent for the game, jumped to a 14-6 lead, missing only two shots in the first five minutes.
Bluejay junior Susan Carter sparked a comeback for Tabor that would eventually give them the lead. The 5-11 center, who finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, knocked down a jumper and followed it three free throws and several rebounds. Her short jumper with 10:59 left gave Tabor a 17-16 lead.
One key for the Jays was getting to the free-throw line early. They were able to keep the contest close by converting their opportunities, going 12-of-14.
With seven minutes left in the half, Bethany took a one-point lead that they would never relinquish. They stretched the lead to six by intermission, 27-21.
Freshman Rachelle Spears played her best game of the year, scoring 10 first-half points. She finished the game with 12 points and seven rebounds.
Early in the second half Bethany once again threatened to run away with the game. They increased their lead to 10 points on a Christy Holm jumper with 16:29 remaining.
But Tabor fought back again. Carter again fueled the Tabor run, hitting two jumpers and a free throw to cut the lead to four points with 13 minutes to play. Two minutes later, Carmen Hein hit her only three of the game to tie the game at 49.
The Bluejays were unable to take the lead, though, and Bethany slowly and methodically pulled away at the free throw line, hitting 14 of 17 charities in the second half. They shot 87 percent for the game.
Despite the early exit from the KCAC tournament, Rigby thinks the program is on the right path.
“Hands down we have the best freshman group in the KCAC,” she said. “No one was as successful as we were and put as many freshmen on the court as we did. We have a lot to look forward to.”
Unfortunately, the Jays will lose seniors Jenae Rademacher, Tami Jons and Natalie Hess. They will also most likely lose Tesha Wertha, their star senior point guard, unless the KCAC grants a fifth year of eligibility.
There was some question at the beginning of the year of whether the Hillsboro High School grad would join the Bluejays for her senior campaign. She’s glad she did.
“This was definitely my best year of college basketball-both with the players and the coaches,” she said. “It was a lot of fun.”
Tabor finished the season 8-10 in the KCAC and 13-15 overall.