The top-seeded Tabor College women lost to No. 8 the University of Saint Mary in the KCAC tournament quarterfinals Thursday, 57-54.
The?Bluejay offense struggled to find its rhythm, shooting just 35.2 percent from the field for the game (19-54), including 31.6 percent from three (6-19).
In the first half, Tabor made just nine of 32 attempts from the field (28.1 percent), but the Bluejays maintained a slight lead until the final 10 seconds before halftime.
Tabor burst to a 5-0 lead out of the gate, but the Spires closed within one. From there, a 6-2 run capped by a basket by Tena Loewen gave the Bluejays an 11-6 margin. Although the Spires again narrowed the gap to one, Tabor maintained the lead and built to its largest margin of the night, 22-15, with 5:18 left in the half. Kayla Wilgers scored eight of Tabor?s 11 points during that stretch.
From there, the Spires ended the half with an 11-3 run, draining back-to-back threes in the final minute to take the lead, 26-25, by halftime.
Loewen and Tonisha Dean contributed to a 6-0 run after intermission that put the Bluejays in front, 31-26, and the teams traded scores. Tabor increased its lead to 38-32, but the Spires closed the gap to 40-39 with a trey at the 11:04 mark. Taylor Hurd responded with a basket, but then Saint Mary?s Rachel Emde single-handedly contributed to a 7-0 burst that left Tabor trailing, 46-42, with 7:25 to play.
The Bluejays fell behind, 49-44, at the 5:16 mark, but Wilgers drained a three to close the gap to two, then Taylor Janzen scored a pair of free throws that tied the game at 49 with 2:22 to play. But the Spires made two free throws, then scored a traditional three-point play before Dean scored to bring Tabor within 54-51 with 1:13 to go.
Both teams missed a shot, and the Spires called timeout with 14.7 seconds left. Tabor went for the ball on the inbounds play but was whistled for a foul, and Saint Mary extended its lead to 55-51 by making one of two charity shots.
Dean drained a three-pointer to bring Tabor within one, 55-54, with 5.2 seconds left, but the Spires made a pair of free throws to increase their margin to the final, 57-54 score. With just 1.7 to work with, Tabor?s inbounds pass was tipped by the Spires and time ran out, giving Saint Mary the upset victory.
Saint Mary?s Emde and Shanice Palmer led all scorers with 20 points each. Dean and Wilgers led Tabor with 13 points apiece. Loewen added 10.
Coming?Tabor will now prepare for the NAIA national tournament, having clinched an automatic bid by winning the KCAC regular season title. The first round is set to begin March 11.