Tabor men beat OKWU in overtime, TC women come up just short

Oklahoma Wesleyan University came to Tabor College on Saturday with both their women’s and men’s teams nestled comfortably in second place in their respective Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference races.

Meanwhile, Tabor’s teams have been somewhat down, and some say out, by their play in recent games. But on this day, the competitive fire returned for both squads. Both teams fell behind in the first half and both made a run for glory in the second half.

The Tabor women, who trailed by as much as 16 points in the second quarter, fought back to a 65-65 tie in the final minute of the game only to lose, 68-65, on a 3-point basket by OKWU’s Dania Goodwin in the final seconds. The Bluejays did have one last shot before the busser, but Tristen Lieszler’s 3-point shot failed to hit the mark.

WOMEN—The Tabor women got off to another slow start; ultimately, it led to their demise. The Eagles jumped to a 12-0 lead before Taylor Deniston scored on a drive to the basket with 5:16 left in the quarter. OKWU expanded its lead to 17-4 by the end of the quarter.

The Bluejays began to right themselves as the second quarter began, and they more or less battled the Eagles to a stalemate with a 13-12 edge for the quarter and a 29-17 deficit at halftime.

The magic clicked for Tabor in the third quarter, which was one of their most efficient and productive two quarters in recent weeks.

The Bluejays scored easy baskets on their first three possessions, and continued that trend to the end of the quarter to narrow the deficit to 50-42.

Tabor launched another surge as the fourth quarter began. Deniston opened with a three, Kelsey Unruh scored a 2-pointer and Morgan Ediger drilled a three to cut the margin to 52-50. When Tabor finally caught OKWU at 65 when Leiszler nailed a 3-pointer, the crowd exploded. Unfortunately, the Eagles had enough time on the clock to hit the winning basket before the buzzer.

Deniston led the Bluejays with 18 points. Ediger added 13, Leiszler 12 and Unruh 10 points. As poorly as Tabor shot in the first quarter, their second-half play elevated them to 44 percent shooting (24-55). A case could be made that Tabor’s defensive effort turned out to be their downfall. The Eagles shot 57 percent for the game (32-56).

With the loss, Tabor slips to 11-9 in KCAC play and 14-12 for the season. The Eagles improve to 13-7 and 19-9.

MEN—OKWU jumped to a 10-5 start in the first four minutes of the game, but Tabor maintained its poise and stayed within striking distance of the 20th-ranked Eagles as the first half progressed. When it ended, OKWU was leading, 38-30.

Now it was time for Tabor get hot out of the gate. The Bluejays launched a 9-2 surge at the start to pull within 40-39 at the 16:40 mark.

As the half wore on, the Eagles began to separate from the Bluejays and built a lead as large as 64-49 with 8:38 to play. When Diontre Cutliff sank two free throws at the 8:30 mark, Tabor began to build momentum. The Bluejays closed the gap to 66-65 when Cutliff drained a 3-point basket with 3:29 left.

The two teams traded scores until the game stood at 72-72 with less than a minute left. Both teams called strategic timeouts. Tabor’s Julian Winton launched the potential winning shot only to see it bounce off the back of the rim, sending the game into overtime.

The visitors appeared to take charge in the extra period. The hit a 3-point basket and then a pair of free throws for a 77-72 lead. That score remained until Alan Urrutia nailed huge a 3-point basket with 1:34 remaining that cut the Eagle lead to 77-75.

When Tabor forced a 10-second call in the backcourt against OKWU, Cutliff stepped up big once again by drilling a 3-pointer that gave Tabor a one-point lead with 1:04 to play.

OKWU’s Isaac Rowe scored with 33 seconds left, but DeShun Patterson responded with a 2-point basket in the lane with 21 seconds left.

With Tabor leading 80-79, Urrutia was fouled and nailed two critical free throws for a 82-79 lead. OKWU’s KJ Malveau attempted a winning 3-point basket on an inbounds play with 6 seconds left, but Patterson deflected the ball just enough to miss the mark. The Eagles misfired two more desperate 3-point shots before time ran out and the Bluejays celebrated a huge victory before their Spirit Night crowd.

Cutliff turned out to be the scoring leader for the Bluejays with 19 points. Urrutia and Winton each added 17. As a team, Tabor shot 40 percent from the floor (31-77), which was only a tad below OKWU’s 41 percent (24-58). Tabor had a significant advantage at the free-throw line, making 28 of 40 free throws while the visitors made nine of only 13 attempts.

The loss drops Oklahoma Wesleyan to 13-7 and into a four-school tie for second place two games behind Southwestern. Tabor improves to 12-8 and is in a two-team tie for sixth place three games behind South­western.