Tabor sweeps Friends in semifinals; Bluejays to play in championship games

Both Tabor College basketball teams found success in their KCAC tournament semifinal games at Friends Saturday. The Bluejay women won, 56-53, while the Tabor men gained a 90-81 victory over the Falcons. Janelle Rust shoots for three during the first half at Friends Saturday. Rust scored a game-high 25 points, including seven threes, in Tabor?s 56-53 win.

WOMEN?Victory was sweet Saturday when the third-seeded Bluejays defeated the No. 2 Falcons, 56-53. The win not only gave Tabor an opportunity to play in the KCAC championship game Monday; it also broke a seven-game losing streak against the Falcons dating back to the 2010-2011 season.

The start of the game was anything but sweet for Tabor, however, as the Falcons burst to an 11-0 lead out of the gate before Mallory Zuercher made a three-pointer at the 15:44 mark. Kayla Wilgers drained a three, Hannah Paust added a free throw, then Janelle Rust sank a three and followed with two free throws to narrow the gap to 16-12 at 9:17.

The Bluejays continued to chip away at the Falcon lead. Zuercher scored a three that ignited a 7-0 run. After baskets by Hannah Paust and Tena Loewen, Tabor was within 25-24. It was a back-and-forth battle the rest of the half, and Friends held a 29-26 advantage at intermission.

The Falcons increased their lead to 33-26 out of the locker room before Janelle Rust fired off back-to-back three-pointers to bring Tabor within 33-32. Rust hit another three with 14:56 left in the game, and a three-point play by Nikki Lewis gave Tabor its first lead, 38-37. Friends reclaimed the lead with a basket, then Lewis scored four straight points to push the lead back in the Bluejays? favor. But the Falcons answered with five points of their own before Rust put Tabor back in front, 45-44, with another three with 6:42 left in the game.

With 3:21 left to play, the Falcons made a three-pointer to take the lead, 49-47. Kaleigh Troxell answered with a three-pointer 18 seconds later, but a Falcon basket and free throw put Friends up, 52-50. Rust then made a three-pointer for a 53-52 Tabor lead with 1:20 to go. Two Falcon baskets missed their mark before Tabor was called for a foul. Friends made one of two free throws, tying the game at 53 with 37.8 seconds left.

Tabor took a timeout, but missed a shot as the shot-clock expired. Lewis grabbed the rebound, however, and Rust made her seventh three-pointer of the night with just 3.7 seconds left on the clock. After a Friends timeout, Rust stole a Falcon pass down-court to seal the 56-53 Bluejay victory.

Rust scored a game-high 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 7-of-11 from three-point range. Andrew Thomas scores to give Tabor an 8-7 lead. Thomas scored 30 points in Tabor?s 90-81 win over Friends.

MEN?The fifth-seeded Bluejays upset No. 1 Friends in Saturday?s semifinal matchup, 90-81, to earn a trip to the KCAC championship game Monday.

The teams engaged in a battle of give-and-take in the opening minutes. Andrew Thomas scored Tabor?s first eight points for an 8-7 Bluejay lead at the 17:10 mark. D?Marco Smith scored for a 14-10 Tabor advantage, but a Falcon three-pointer and consecutive two-point basket left the Bluejays trailing. Robbie Samuel and Lance Carter answered with back-to-back scores to put Tabor back in front, and Marc Hopkinson later drained a three to give the Bluejays their largest lead of the half, 21-16. Friends reclaimed the lead with a 6-0 run, then Smith tied the game at 22 with a free throw at 6:19. Carter later scored consecutive baskets to tie the game at 26, but Friends reclaimed the lead and built up to its largest margin of the half, 33-28, at 1:16. Dewayne Biggs scored the half?s final basket for a 33-30 Falcon lead at intermission.

The teams traded baskets, and Hopkinson tied it at 37 with a three-pointer with 16:16 left in the game. Thomas scored, and Hopkinson later gave Tabor a 43-38 advantage after draining a three-pointer, getting fouled and making the ensuing free throw.

Tabor led the rest of the way, although Friends drew within 45-44 with 13:32 to play. The Bluejays outscored Friends 10-2 after that, with Thomas contributing the final eight points of the run for a 55-46 Tabor advantage at 10:24. Joe Mitchell closed the gap to 55-50 with four straight Falcon points, but Carter and Thomas answered with consecutive buckets. Tabor increased its lead to double-figures, 67-57, when Smith scored and Carter added two free throws. Tabor?s largest lead was 71-59 after Biggs scored with 3:10 remaining. Friends battled to within 80-75 with 49 seconds to play. Tabor made 10 of 12 free throws in the final 48 seconds, and claimed the win, 90-81.

Mitchell led all scorers with 40 points. Thomas scored 30 points to lead Tabor. Carter added 16, Hopkinson 12 and Smith 11.

COMING?The Tabor women will face No. 1 Southwestern Monday in the championship game at Hartman Arena. Start time is 6 p.m. Southwestern defeated Kansas Wesleyan, 85-76, to advance to the championship.

The Tabor men will face No. 2 Sterling Monday in the championship game at Hartman Arena. Game time is 8 p.m. Sterling defeated Bethany, 89-76, to advance to the championship.

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