TC Women open two-game lead in KCAC race

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Prior to Saturday’s game with the University of Saint Mary, Rusty Allen, coach of the seventh-ranked Tabor College women, thought the Spires-with two conference victories under their belt-would provide a decent challenge for his team.

He was wrong.

The Spires stayed close for about five minutes with an obviously more talented Tabor team, but eventually limped home on the losing end of a 76-35 score.

“Lately they’ve been pretty competitive,” Allen said. “Sterling only beat them by seven and on Thursday they went to McPherson and won by 11.”

Saint Mary took its only lead at 4-2 with 3:36 into the game. The Spires were still tied with Tabor at 6-6 at the 15:08 mark, but the rest of the night was all Bluejays.

Tabor outscored the visitors 30-11 in the final 15 minutes to take a 36-17 halftime lead.

Allen said his team has become more aggressive in recent games.

“One thing that’s happened with our group is that we’ve started taking better care of the basketball,” he said. “And we’ve started getting the ball to the basket and that’s made us really tough.”

It didn’t hurt that the Bluejays-all 14 who saw court time in the opening 20 minutes-played stifling defense, too. Saint Mary made only 21 percent from the field (6-29) in the first half, including an 0-for-9 performance from behind the 3-point arc.

The second half proved to be more of the same. Already leading 49-25 with 14:09 to play, Tabor put together 15-0 run over the next seven minutes to swell the lead to 64-25.

Allen said although 16 players saw court time in the victory, he wasn’t using the time for experimental plays and gimmicks.

“I don’t like to toy around,” Allen said. “In games like this, we try to sharpen what we do well because I want to look at the film and say these are the most important things about our defense and here’s what we’re not doing well.

“I thought our whole bench executed really well, though.”

Tabor’s lead grew as large as 42 points before settling for the final 41-point win.

Stacie Herman and Emily Vogts led the Bluejays with 14 points each, although only one Tabor player played as much as 20 minutes.

“I thought from the early part of the game, Emily sensed that she could go right at them,” Allen said. “She was really aggressive and we’re pleased with that-that’s what we want to see.”

Tabor made 15 of 29 field-goal attempts in the second half (52 percent) and finished the game hitting 46 percent (28-61).

The Bluejays also converted seven of 15 3-point attempts, led by Erica Dechant’s 3-for-3 effort.

“If you take away the first four games, Erica’s 3-point percentage is on fire,” Allen said. “If you leave her (open), it’s about like her shooting a free throw. That’s how much confidence she’s playing with.”

Saint Mary finished the evening hitting 23.2 percent for the game (13-56) including three of 18 from behind the arc.

Donya Anderson led Tabor rebounding with 10 boards; as team, the Bluejays out-rebounded the Spires 49-27.

Tabor racked up 21 assists led by Erica Hemmert with four.

With its 12th straight win, Tabor improved to 8-0 in KCAC play and 15-3 overall while Saint Mary fell to 2-6 and 2-14.

Kansas Wesleyan-After a couple of less-than-ideal performances over the past few weeks, the Tabor women finally impressed coach Rusty Allen with an 81-63 win over Kansas Wesleyan Thursday in Hillsboro.

“We played ugly and won four games prior to this,” he said. “We played well tonight, though.”

It didn’t take Tabor long to flex its muscle, jumping to a 10-2 lead at the 15:33 mark, thanks in part to three assists from point guard Stacie Herman.

But unlike years past, Wesleyan didn’t roll over, and tied the game at 10 with 12:08 left.

Tabor responded with an 18-7 run over the next four minutes to open a 28-17 lead.

Sparking the surge was an outburst of 3-pointers-two from freshman Kirsten Watson and one each from Erica Dechant and Erica Hemmert.

Allen said his team’s ability to handle the basketball was key to its success on offense.

“We just took so much better care of the ball than we have been,” he said. “We’ve put a lot of emphasis on that recently and our players really responded.”

The teams traded baskets until Watson drained her third 3-pointer in the final seconds of the half to send the Bluejays to the locker room with 42-28 lead.

Tabor opened the second 20 minutes with a 9-0 spurt led by Herman and Donya Anderson for a 51-28 lead. The run was fueled by the defense.

“It seemed like early in the second half, we were able to disrupt them,” Allen said. “That led to some transition baskets and a pretty good lead.”

A traditional three-point play by Jill Hein at the 13:58 mark gave Tabor its largest lead of the night at 62-36.

“We’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on getting the ball to the basket,” he said. “I really feel like with our quickness, our passing ability and our height, we ought to be attacking the rim and take the 3-point shot as our second option.”

Wesleyan did cut the gap to 15 points before the game ended, due in part to a letdown of focus.

“It’s a challenge (to stay focused), but there’s really no excuse for not staying focused because you only have so many games in a season and you might as well have fun and play them as hard as you can,” Allen said.

Tabor was led by Herman with 14 points. Hein added 13, Anderson 12 and Hemmert and Watson 11 each.

Watson connected on three of four 3-point shots and both of her free-throw attempts.

“Kirsten passed well and hit three consecutive 3-point shots,” Allen said. “She also had four assists and just one turnover. I’ll take that every single game, especially from my backup point guard.”

Ascendra Peters led KWU with 21 points.

Tabor made 28 of 56 field-goal attempts (50 percent) while limiting Wesleyan to 23 of 60 (38.3 percent).

The Bluejays racked up 19 assists. Herman and Watson led with four apiece.

Tabor won the rebounding battle 39-31 behind 12 boards from Anderson.

KWU committed 17 turnovers while Tabor was guilty of 13.

“About 10 or 15 turnovers is where we need to be,” Allen said. “Tonight we had 13 and that’s more like it.”

Coming- Tabor travels to North Newton on Thursday to battle Bethel College, then to Lindsborg on Saturday to play Bethany College. Games begin at 6 p.m. and 5 p.m., respectively.

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