ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
The Tabor women opened 2004 with a loss and a win at the Golden Heritage Foods Post-Holiday Classic this weekend at home.
After falling to Sioux Falls University on Friday, the Bluejays came back on Saturday to beat nationally ranked Concordia University for the second time this season.
Concordia-Concordia University seems to play Tabor College at very inopportune times.
In its first meeting, a 73-64 overtime Bluejay victory in Nebraska, Tabor entered the game upset following an embarrassing loss to Baker University.
Saturday night, the Bluejays were coming off a horrible shooting night against Sioux Falls, and they still had a bitter taste in their mouth following their disappointing 1-3 KCAC start.
So, what better way to rebound than to knock off the ninth-ranked Bulldogs, who entered the game with a 13-2 record.
Following their 67-58 win, coach Rusty Allen was pleased his women could bounce back with such effectiveness.
“The talk before this game was ‘we’re going to play a complete game,'” Allen said. “Even if we didn’t win, we wanted to play for the entire 40 minutes.
“All we worked on this week was fundamentals and we’re going to play a sound basketball game the whole time we’re on the court.”
It also didn’t hurt the Bluejays cause that Concordia’s’ All-American center Sarah Harrison was taken to a McPherson hospital Friday night because of dehydration and didn’t play against Tabor.
Harrison scored 23 points in the previous meeting this year.
With the absence of Harrison, Allen’s Bluejays refocused their defensive scheme on the Bulldogs’ outside weapons.
The Bulldogs grabbed an early 7-1 lead, their largest of the game. But the Bluejays eventually tied the contest at 16-16 with 6:58 left in the half.
When Jessica Vineyard hit a cutting Angela Kroeker with a nice pass, which resulted in a basket, the Bluejays took a 28-21 lead with 3:16 left in the half.
When the halftime buzzer sounded, Tabor led 30-25 and had connected on 48 percent of its shots, including three of seven from beyond the 3-point arc.
Leading the first-half charge was Erica Hemmert with 11 points.
Tabor maintained its lead in the second half until Concordia tied the score at 39 with 12:18 to play. But the Bulldogs could never make it over the hump.
A balanced scoring attack by Tabor managed to keep the Bulldogs at bay. The game was in doubt, though, until Trixsi Odom connected on six straight free throws in the final 50 seconds to seal the win.
“We were a lot more stubborn at this point in the season-stubborn in the way we fought, boxed out on the boards, fought for rebounds, and stepped in front of people and didn’t let them go where they wanted to go,” Allen said. “We’ve come a long ways.”
Allen said he was most pleased with his team’s consistency and tenacity.
“We maintained it tonight for 40 minutes,” he said. “I’m not saying we didn’t have bad moments, but we didn’t let it last for 10 possessions tonight.”
In all, 12 Bluejays saw duty on the court. Tabor’s bench outscored Concordia’s 23-3.
“I feel pretty good about the rotation we’ve established,” he said. “But I told the women even though I feel good about that, I still have three to six players that are capable of playing.”
Allen cited the steady floor play of reserve Steph Stuber, who, despite not scoring, ran the Bluejay offense without flaw.
“She’s never been in a situation like this before, but she never cost us a thing,” Allen said. “I was really proud of Steph this weekend.
Hemmert finished with 17 points to lead Tabor, but three other Bluejays scored 10: starter Angela Kroeker and reserves Shannon Kroeker and Vineyard.
Freshman Donya Anderson led the team in rebounding with seven. As a team, Tabor was out-rebounded 37-32.
Tabor forced 21 Bulldog turnovers while committing 15.
The Bluejays hit 47.3 percent of their shots while their defense held the Bulldogs to 43.3 percent.
Allen said good shooting is connected with good rebounding.
“When you rebound well offensively, you shoot better because you know if you miss, you have a chance to get the rebound,” Allen said.
With the win, the Bluejays improved to 7-7 heading back into KCAC action against McPherson Thursday night.
“We have to take them one at a time, but I like our team,” he concluded. “Hopefully we can know this is what it takes and we can build off of this game.”
Sioux Falls-Simply put, Tabor dropped a 78-65 decision to the University of Sioux Falls Friday night because of its inability to make shots.
“We came out and went after them, but you have to make your shots,” coach Rusty Allen said. “If you want to beat the best teams, you have to make your shots and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Statistically, the Bluejays launched 67 shots, but made just 23 for 34 percent shooting. Their counterparts attempted just 52 shots but connected on 48 percent.
“I thought their transition was really effective,” Allen said. “That’s how they got most of their points, while we missed a number of shots that were good, high percentage shots.”
The first half was a battle from start to finish as the stronger and more physical Cougars established court position by virtue of their strength.
Sioux Falls managed to build its largest lead of the half, 34-28, with just 2:49 to play. But an Erica Hemmert field goal and two Trixsi Odom free throws narrowed the gap to 36-34 by intermission.
Odom scored eight points in the half.
“I’ve told her to penetrate more and, if she gets space, to shoot it,” Allen said. “I thought Trixsi made really good decisions tonight.”
Tabor started the second half with six unanswered points to grab its biggest lead of the contest at 40-36. But Sioux Falls countered with four straight to even the game.
The two teams battled on even terms before tying the game for the 13th time at 55-55 with just 8:43 remaining.
But Concordia’s superior strength reared its head down the stretch. When Jill Austin scored two of her game-high 17 points to give the Cougars the lead with 8:27 remaining, it would be the final lead change of the game as Sioux Falls gradually pulled away down the stretch.
Allen said when a team doesn’t hit from the floor, it can result in fewer free-throws, too.
“If you don’t make shots, why should they foul you?” Allen asked. “That slowly crept into their thinking as the game wore on and they started letting us catch it and just step back, even on the blocks.”
Sioux Falls made eight more trips to the charity stripe, where they converted 23 of 33 attempts compared to just 17 of 25 for the Bluejays.
One strategy did meet with moderate success setting up sophomore Jill Hein on the low block.
“I thought Jill had a great game,” Allen said. “She did a lot of nice things-she posted up well, she passed the ball well, and she ran the floor well.”
Odom led the Bluejays with 12 points, followed by both Rachelle Wertenberger and Hein with 11 points each.
The Bluejays battled hard on the boards but were out-rebounded 44-38. Wertenberger pulled down seven rebounds.