ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Tabor College defeated Concordia University, 72-58, Saturday night to claim the championship of the sixth Cattle Classic at Seward, Neb.
“These were very good wins for us,” Tabor coach Rusty Allen said of the holiday tournament. “I would say this was similar competition to what we’ve been facing.”
The Bluejays bolted to a quick lead Friday, surging in front by 12 points, 26-14, with just over five minutes remaining in the first half. But a late 16-4 run by Concordia brought the host school to within two points by halftime, 32-30.
“We really let them back into the ball game,” Allen said.
That narrow margin carried over into the second stanza as the lead see-sawed until the 10-minute mark of the game.
That’s when the Bluejays took advantage of its deep bench to pull ahead down the stretch before settling for the 14-point win.
“Our depth finally wore them down,” Allen said. “We finally put together some really consistent offense and, for about seven minutes, we scored on virtually every possession and just built that nice lead.”
As was the case the night before, balanced scoring found four Bluejays scoring in double figures. Stacie Herman led with 21 points, Emily Vogts added 14, Erica Hemmert had 12 and Donya Anderson contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“We have a lot of players who can score, so that balance really helps us,” Allen said. “It makes it difficult for our opponent to focus their defensive efforts, which allows us an opportunity to execute.”
Anderson, who averaged a double-double in the tournament, was named to the All-Classic team as was Herman, who was named Most Valuable Player after averaging 18 points.
The Bluejays connected on 54.9 percent of their shots (28 of 51), including four of seven (57.1 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc.
Tabor also won the battle of the boards, 35-31 led by Anderson’s 10 rebounds.
“We learned a lot from this tournament,” Allen said. “We learned how important it is to play good defense and we learned that our team needs to play together.
“It was a confidence builder and I think it was a unifier for our team,” he added. “The timing of this was great because it comes right before our conference season.
“Conference play is obviously the most important thing to get ready for because it’s our ticket to the national tournament.”
With the win, Tabor improved to 5-3 for the season.
Midland Lutheran-Tabor made it to the finals of the Cattle Classic with an easy 73-52 win over Midland Lutheran College on Friday.
“We talked about how everything revolves around our defense and how we haven’t been playing defense that well lately,” coach Rusty Allen said. “We had a championship level of defense in the first half against Midland.”
As often is the case, good defense sparks good offense. Tabor hit a torrid 55.6 percent from the field in the first half on the way to a 31-of-59 performance for the game (52.5 percent).
“Those percentages were a result of our players agreeing with me that we were taking a lot of bad shots and that it was time to start playing better together,” Allen said.
“We just took better shots, moved the ball quicker, set better screens and we were really patient when we needed to be.”
With a comfortable 18-point halftime lead, Tabor cruised home with a 21-point victory.
Four players scored in double figures for the Bluejays. Emily Vogts led with 16 points, Stacie Herman added 15, Jill Hein 12 and Donya Anderson 10 points to go with 10 rebounds.
Tabor committed 24 turnovers in the game, a problem Allen said will surely decrease as the season progresses.
“We’re still forcing too many passes and turning it over more than we’d like,” Allen said. “We did gain a better awareness to work on it than we had before this weekend.”
The Bluejays out-rebounded Midland, 33-22. led by Anderson’s 10 boards.
Baker-Before leaving for Seward, Tabor lost a heart breaker to Baker University, 69-68, in the closing seconds at Baldwin City, Nov. 22.
“We led for the first five minutes or so but fell behind by 12 early in the second half,” coach Rusty Allen said. “We just aren’t playing very good basketball right now, although we do at times.”
Trailing 34-28 at halftime, Tabor hit 13 of 32 (40.6 percent) shots from the field but missed all five of its 3-point attempts.
Baker was 12 of 31 (38.7 percent) from the field but drained four of nine 3-pointers.
In the second half, the Bluejays began a methodical comeback. With only 1:02 to play, Tabor led, 68-65, and had possession.
A Baker foul sent Erica Hemmert to the foul stripe, but the dependable senior missed the front end of a one-and-one.
Baker rebounded and hurried down the floor. Ashley Ohlman made a bucket and drew a foul, enabling her to tie the game at 68 with a free-throw.
Moments later, Hemmert again missed a one-and-one and Baker rebounded.
A personal foul on the Bluejays sent Baker’s Molly Ediger to the line and she made one of two free throws.
Trailing 69-68 with seven seconds left, Tabor advanced the ball to half court with 3.2 seconds to play. A last-second shot by Jill Hein was off the mark, dropping Tabor to 3-3 for the season.
Stacie Herman and Hemmert both scored 19 points to lead Tabor. Hemmert pulled down 10 rebounds.
Hein added 17 on 4-of-5 3-point shooting and Emily Vogts and 11 points and 13 rebounds.
Ohlman led Baker with 20 points.
The Bluejays hit 45.2 percent from the field compared to Baker’s 39.3 percent, but the difference was in turnovers. Tabor committed 23, Baker 19.
“You can see our potential, but we go through stretches where we lose our assignments defensively, or we don’t show enough patience on offense,” Allen said.
“We have a lot of things we need to work on,” he said. “Offensively, we need to take better care of the basketball and limit our turnovers.”
Coming- Tabor opens KCAC play Thursday when the Bluejays host the Bethany Swedes at 6 p.m.
On Saturday, Tabor travels to Sterling to face Lonnie Kruse’s Warriors with game time set for 5 p.m.