Tabor teams sweep Saint Mary by blowout and by squeaker

Tabor College basketball teams claimed victories against their counterparts from the University of Saint Mary on Wednesday, but the story line of the two games was about as far apart as Hillsboro is from Leavenworth, home of the Spires.

The Tabor women showed why they are the unbeaten leader the KCAC, throttling the eighth-place Spires (2-3, 5-5), 80-43.

Meanwhile, the Bluejay men (3-2, 4-5) struggled to find continuity against the second-place team in the KCAC (4-1, 6-5), but came together as a team in the final 9 minutes to send USM home with an 85-76 defeat.

WOMEN—The Bluejays sent a message from the start, making nine of 11 shots from the field while limiting the Spires to 4-for-14 shooting for a 23-10 lead after the first quarter.

As bad as it was, Saint Mary fans had even less to cheer for after that point. Tabor’s Morgan Ediger poured in 11 points in the second quarter to help inflate the lead to 44-18 by halftime. The only unknown at that point was whether the Bluejays might actually reach the century mark by the end of the contest.

Spoiler alert: they didn’t.

However, the Bluejays remained cohesive, effective and impressive the entire second half, pushing the disparity between the two teams to 68-29 after three quarters, on the way to their 46-point spread at the end of the game.

The Bluejays shot 64.2 percent (34-53) from the floor, including 9-for-13 (69 percent) shooting from behind the arc. Meanwhile, the Spires shot 25 percent (15-60) from the floor, including 3-for-21 (14 percent) from behind the arc.

Ediger finished the game with 25 points; Taylor Deniston added 18. Nobody on USM managed to break double-digits.

Tabor is now 6-0 in the KCAC and 8-2 for the season. USM slipped to 2-4 and 5-6.

MEN—Coming in as the underdog—if conference records mean anything at this stage of the season—sixth-place Tabor could have folded when the Spires opened the game with a 10-4 burst. But the Bluejays knew they have the talent to compete with anyone, and did just that all game long.

At times it wasn’t pretty. Tabor nipped at the Spires’ heels for most of the game, finally tying the score at 19 on a basket by Alex Arnold with 10:50 left in the first half. The Bluejays took the lead, 23-20 on back-to-back baskets by Travell Robinson and Julian Winton, the latter with 9:37 left in the half.

It appeared the seesaw battle would continue all the way until halftime, but with a basket by USM’s Payton Meek with 1:56 left, the Spires suddenly launched an 8-1 burst that gave them a 47-40 lead heading into intermission.

Tabor rallied to keep the game close as the second half began, but when USM pushed its lead to 62-53, coach Micah Ratzlaff called a timeout right after Winton scored a layup to narrow the lead to 62-55.

Coming out of that break, Tabor seemed to recommit itself to winning the game, not just playing close. When Jordan Horstick scored on a put-back, Tabor inched in front, 71-69. At that point, USM called a timeout, but it made little difference. Tabor had the momentum down the home stretch, using strong team play to outscore the Spires, 14-7, for their come-from-behind victory.

For the game, five Bluejays reached double-figure scoring: Winton led with 17, Jon Manjon Beris­tain was right behind with 16, Horstick and Patterson each scored 12 and Arnold chipped in 11.

Tabor outshot USM from the floor, 57 percent (31-54) to 48 percent (27-56), and from behind the arc, 44 percent (4-9) to 33 percent (9-27). Tabor’s potential Achilles heel came at the free-throw line, where the Bluejays went 19-33 while the Spires made 13 of 14 attempts.

COMING—Tabor will host Bethany College on Saturday, with a 5 p.m. start for the women and a 7 p.m. start for the men.