Growing confidence fuels wins for TC women

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
On the heels of a big win over Southwestern, Tabor coach Rusty Allen didn’t want Saint Mary, a team that hadn’t beaten the Bluejays earlier this season, to spoil the achievement.

He didn’t need to worry. His Bluejays added even more luster to week with overwhelming 85-41 win over the visitors on Saturday.

But the Bluejays weren’t so overwhelming at the start.

With Saint Mary out-hustling Tabor on both ends of the floor, the Spires kept pace through the first 7:30 of the game.

Tabor led 10-9, but Allen wasn’t happy.

After an Allen timeout to adjust some attitudes, the rest was history.

“They were hustling the ball up the court and we were lackadaisical getting back,” Allen said. “Consequently, we didn’t get any pressure on them.

“We had to hustle back on defense because we can gain an advantage with pressure.”

The Jays translated that advantage into a 24-8 surge to finish the half, taking a 34-17 lead into intermission.

The advantage continued to grow in the second half-but not before Allen reminded his squad that even though they had a huge lead, they still had business to attend to.

“We started the second half great offensively,” Allen said. “But on defense, we played like this game was over. So I called time out and told them we’re not going to go back and not play defense.”

Allen’s Bluejays got the message loud and clear, and dominated the Spires from that point on.

Allen substituted liberally in the second half. Except for Casey Stucky (20:26), no Bluejay played more than 20 minutes, but all 13 played at least 7:30.

Never threatened, Tabor went on to lead by as many as 49 points, 80-31, before settling for the 44-point victory.

Tabor shot the ball well, hitting 48.4 percent from the field, including an amazing 11 of 18 3-pointers for 61.1 percent.

“Our players just started thinking ‘We can’t miss,’ and that’s called getting in a zone,” Allen said. “And we definitely got in a zone tonight.”

Defensively, the Bluejay pressure bedazzled the visiting Spires, forcing 21 turnovers that led to 20 Bluejay points, while holding the Spires to just 29.2 percent shooting.

“We’re playing defense, not only on the ball, but off the ball as well,” Allen said

Spearheading Tabor’s offense was Rachelle Wertenberger, who was 7-for-9 from the field, including 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. She finished with 19 points while playing fewer than 16 minutes.

“Rachelle has really come out of her slump,” Allen said.

Casey Stucky added 13 points and led the team in rebounds with seven.

Allen said this wasn’t the same Tabor team that lost to Saint Mary earlier in the season.

“We’re playing with a lot more determination and a lot more confidence,” he said.

With the win, Tabor remains in a virtual deadlock with Southwestern for third in the KCAC, both with 10-6 records. Tabor is 15-11 overall.

Saint Mary falls to 12-14 overall and 5-11 in KCAC play.

Tabor 66, Southwestern 61

“This was one of the biggest wins we’ve had here for Tabor women’s basketball in four or five years-if not longer,” coach Rusty Allen said after his team defeated Southwestern Thursday at Winfield.

It wasn’t an easy victory, but that only added to the achievement.

Southwestern built an 11-6 lead six minutes into the game. With 13:21 left in the half, Tabor post player Casey Stucky was assessed her second foul, and spent the rest of the half as Allen’s assistant.

But Tabor has been building its confidence in recent games, and this was an opportunity to showcase it.

Trailing 18-12 with 9:42 remaining, the Stucky-less Bluejays went on a 20-8 run, and turned a six-point deficit into a six-point advantage.

“I was really proud of our team because for almost 14 minutes we played without Casey,” Allen said. “LaTasha (Townsend) and Erin (Raber) teamed up and provided what we needed during that time in the interior. Shannon Kroeker really stepped up for us, too.”

Evidence of Tabor’s competitiveness was a halftime rebounding deficit of only one, 17-16, against the physical bullies from Southwestern.

“They are tough inside,” Allen said. “They’re the toughest team we’ve played against inside this year.

“We felt like (rebounding) was the key. We had to use quickness and anticipation to prevent them from getting the position they wanted.”

Leading 32-26 with just 1:40 to play in the first half, Tabor suffered a defensive lapse that resulted in a 7-0 Southwestern run and a 33-32 Moundbuilder lead at intermission.

“We broke down defensively, and ultimately it was my fault,” Allen said. “I didn’t communicate clearly to our point guard, who then couldn’t be expected to communicate to her teammates.”

Southwestern converted two free throws to start the second half, but Tabor tied the game on a Rachelle Wertenberger field goal with 17:18 to play.

After Tabor took a 45-41 lead with 14:08 to play on a Shannon Kroeker 3-pointer, the Moundbuilders cut the lead back to two on a fast-break bucket.

But the tide was about to turn.

Tabor launched a 10-2 run over the next 4:30-fueled by 3-point and 2-point baskets by freshman Erica Hemmert-to take a 10-point lead, 55-45.

“I thought that was the turning point of the game, and we maintained from then on,” Allen said.

Tabor built its lead to 11 with 5:09 to play. But when the Bluejays struggled to hit free throws down the stretch, Southwestern took advantage and cut the lead to three with 16 seconds to play.

But Wertenberger nailed two free throws two seconds later to seal the win for the Bluejays.

Kroeker led the Jays with 16 points, and fellow freshman Jill Hein added 14.

The battle of the boards ended virtually even, with the stronger Moundbuilders grabbing 40 while the Bluejays finished with 39.

Stucky led Tabor with nine boards.

Tabor limited its turnovers in the second half to just six, and only 15 for the contest.

With the win, Tabor improves to 14-11 overall and 9-6 in the KCAC. Southwestern drops to an identical record in both instances.

Allen was proud of his team’s play.

“The reason it’s such a big win is, No. 1, they were in third place, one game ahead of us in the conference, and now we’re tied. No. 2, they’re just a real talented team.”

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