Tabor women win third straight with Sterling sweep

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF & TOM STOPPEL
After going blow for blow with a physical Benedictine squad for 35 minutes, the Tabor College women found their knockout punch in the final five minutes to claim a 64-52 victory Saturday and earn a two-game sweep at the Warrior Classic in Sterling.

Coming off a gritty win over Northwestern Oklahoma State University a day earlier, coach Rusty Allen’s Bluejays found themselves in a physical, no-holds-barred battle against the Ravens, who had lost to host Sterling on Friday for their first defeat in six games.

With offensive production from seven players, including a team-high nine points from Erica Hemmert, the Bluejays led from the start and built a 37-29 advantage by halftime.

In the second half, the game turned even more physical. Both teams struggled to find offensive rhythm, but the Ravens did piece together a 13-5 run through the first nine minutes to pull within one at 42-41.

With the Ravens still within two at 49-47 and seven minutes left to play, the Bluejays got a pair of free throws from Hemmert and 17-footer from Nicole Ellis to go up 53-47. But with 4:55 to go, Benedictine’s Angela Kmetz nailed a 3-pointer to cut Tabor’s lead in half.

That’s when the Bluejays’ Stacie Herman and Jill Hein delivered back-to-back 3-pointers within 40 seconds of each other to stagger the Ravens for good.

Tabor finished its scoring at the free-throw line, making five of eight attempts down the stretch, while holding Benedictine to a single field goal. The win was Tabor’s third win in a row and improved its season mark to 3-2.

Allen shook his head when the brawl was over.

“I’m not sure if it was a wrestling match or a basketball game,” he said. “It was extremely physical. I really think both teams are naturally very determined and aggressive, and they’re going to do anything the officials are going to let them do to win the game.

“This set of officials went beyond the idea of letting them play-and quite frankly we took advantage of it.”

Allen said his team’s physical strength made the difference.

“We got through screens real physically, so they couldn’t get open looks,” he said. “When we’d go to the basket, we were using our bodies really tough to keep people off of us. Our post players used their bodies to shove them out of position.”

The Bluejays got most of their offense from the outside. Hemmert finished with 18, Herman with 14 and Hein with 12.

Because of the physical nature of the contest, neither team shot well in the second half. Tabor managed only 36 percent from the field, but held the Ravens to 32 percent.

Allen expressed disappointment with the way his team worked the ball on the offensive end.

“We have got a long way to go on offensive execution,” he said. “We’re not moving the ball well, we’re not setting picks quickly enough, we’re not cutting explosively, we don’t have any awareness of how important it is to move the ball from one side of the court all the way to the other side of the court in order to expand the defense.

“Our offensive execution is really bad, but it’s early in the year and we’ve got a couple of players who have practiced only two times (because of volleyball season). We have a lot work to do, but it’s exciting to know that we have this much potential without having our offensive flow going at all.”

Northwestern Oklahoma State-Tabor kicked up its game in the second half of its opener against the Rangers on Friday to claim an 80-62 victory.

The first half was a stalemate, with Northwestern gaining the upper hand at intermission on a 3-pointer by Toni Scales that put the Rangers on top, 39-37, with eight second to play

The second half mirrored the first one through the first 51/2 minutes. With the Bluejays leading by two, 51-49, Erica Hemmert stuck back a missed shot by Jill Hein, launching an 11-1 run over the next four minutes.

The Rangers managed only 1-of-9 shooting from the floor as Tabor increased its lead to 62-50.

The Bluejays maintained a double-digit lead until the final buzzer signaled the 80-62 win.

“It starts on the defensive end,” coach Rusty Allen said about his team’s second-half surge.

He credited Hemmert and especially Hein for their defensive effort against the Rangers’ top player, Dominque Harris, who finished with only six points.

“We adjusted (in the second half) a little bit to keep the ball out of her hands in places on the court where she could drive to the basket,” Allen said. “She had only scored four points in the first half, but she had created all kinds of problems by penetrating.

“About four minutes or so into the half, we put Jill on her. Erica is a great defensive player, but Jill is taller and a good defensive player, too. It really shut her down. Their coach got so frustrated that he sat her down finally.

“Once she couldn’t penetrate, we were able to cover their 3-point shooters a lot better and it just makes for harder shots.”

The Rangers, who shot nearly 56 percent from the field in the first half, managed only 30 percent success in the second half.

Allen praised the play of his freshman point guard, Stacie Herman, who not only applied aggressive full-court pressure on the Ranger’s 3-point shooters, but also scored 16 points-including four of five shots from behind the 3-point line.

“I thought we had a lot of people do some nice things, not the least of which was Herman’s 3-point shooting barrage in the second half,” Allen said.

Hemmert led the team in scoring with 22 points, including four of six 3-pointers. Katie Fast added 11 points and Donya Anderson 10.

As a team, the Bluejays shot 47 percent from the field, including 45 percent from behind the arc.

Tabor committed only nine turnovers during the game, and outscored the Rangers, 26-9, on points off of turnovers.

Baker-Tabor earned its first win of the season Tuesday, Nov. 16, defeating Baker University, 65-59, in Hillsboro.

The Bluejays fell behind early 12-2, but made the necessary adjustments to catch Baker at 24.

“We made an adjustment guarding their 3-point shooters,” coach Rusty Allen said. “We were able to take away their 3-point shots by playing smarter, switching on screens and hopefully playing harder.

“I thought after that, Baker struggled to score.”

Tabor eventually took a 36-33 lead into halftime when freshman point guard Stacie Herman connected on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

The Bluejays maintained their lead throughout the second half, building it to 11 points before Baker made a late run.

Jill Hein’s two free throws down the stretch sealed Tabor’s six-point win.

Allen said Hein’s play was good considering the junior was playing volleyball just last Thursday.

“It’s really surprising Jill could be so sharp without having practiced,” he said. “She really played in the team framework on both ends of the court. That demonstrates what a great athlete Jill is.”

Hein and Katie Fast lead the Bluejays’ balanced attack with 13 points each. Erica Hemmert added 12, Nicole Ellis 10 and Kelly Pavlik and Herman eight each.

Allen said balance will be a key in Tabor’s run for the KCAC title.

“That makes it real difficult for the other team to match up and makes them try to decide where to put their emphasis,” he said. “We just had too many threats to score.”

Tabor connected on 42 percent (22-52) of its shots from the floor while the aggressive Bluejay defense limited Baker to 30 percent (20-66).

With the win, Tabor improved to 1-2 for the season.

“This was a big win for us,” Allen said. “The fact we beat a really good team makes it more of a confidence builder.

“Having gotten off to such a rocky start in Missouri, even though it was against two great teams, the fact is we were still 0-2 so we needed to get a win for confidence.”

Coming-Following their Monday night game at Newman University in Wichita, the Bluejays won’t play again until Saturday, when they will host the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma at 4 p.m.

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