Forced to find a different game after leading-scorer Janelle Rust’s season-ending knee injury at Ottawa, the Tabor women took steps in the right direction Saturday with a home-court, 61-55, win over Saint Mary.
“We’re playing a different kind of system and doing some different things because of Janelle’s injury, and so we’re just trying to work through that, but there was progress, and unfortunately, we don’t have time to make slow progress,” coach Shawn Reed said.
One area in which the Bluejays showed improvement was better execution on offense.
“We still missed some shots that we could hit, but offensively we took a step forward,” Reed said. “The first half was better than the last game, and the second half was better than the first half on offense.”
Katlyn Mary gave the Bluejays a boost with 10 straight points in the first 3:22 for a 10-3 Tabor lead.
The Bluejays led the duration of the first half. Nikki Lewis drained a three-point basket at 13:02, but the Spires closed the gap to 18-17 at the 9:17 mark.
An 8-0 Bluejay gave Tabor a double-digit lead with a basket two minutes later.
Three straight Tabor misses, however, allowed the Spires to narrow the gap to 28-27 with 1:20 left before halftime. The Bluejays clung to a 30-27 lead at the break.
The Spires tied the game at 32 one minute into the second half. then took their only lead of the night, 34-32, after a Tabor turnover.
“We just weren’t thinking on defense a little bit,” Reed said. “We played a little zone, and we weren’t aware of where some shooters were. We just staggered a little bit and weren’t really focused, and then we got going again.”
Lewis scored Tabor’s next five points to regain a 37-34 advantage, and the Bluejays held a lead the rest of the game.
What Tabor may have lacked on the boards—the Bluejays grabbed 35 rebounds compared to 47 for Saint Mary—they made up in steals. Mallory Zuercher hit a three-point shot at 12:21 after a Tabor steal.
“There were a couple times (Saint Mary) got rebounds, but then we got steals,” Reed said. “I’d still rather have the rebound, but we got some hands in there. The ball was flying around, and we got some loose balls. I think that’s big.”
After Lewis followed with a three-pointer to regain a 53-43 lead, Bluejay turnovers and missed shots contributed to an 8-0 surge by the Spires that cut Tabor’s lead to 53-51 with 5:46 left. But Saint Mary scored only two more baskets the rest of the game.
Tabor, meanwhile, scored eight points to boost the Bluejays to the six-point victory.
“We got a couple layups in transition, some easy buckets, made a couple free throws, just played better offensively,” Reed said.
Lewis led the Bluejays with 16 points. Mary added 13 and Paust 10.
With the win, Tabor improved to 14-2 in the KCAC (18-8 overall) to remain locked with Friends for first.
Southwestern––The Moundbuilders led from start to finish in a game characterized by chilly shooting by the Bluejays. Tabor dropped Thursday’s contest at Winfield, 83-52.
It was an ugly start for the Bluejays, who were missing leading-scorer Janelle Rust. Coach Shawn Reed confirmed that Rust is out for the season after suffering a torn ACL at Ottawa Feb. 2.
The Moundbuilders jumped to an 11-0 lead before Tabor got on the board with a Hannah Paust basket at 17:16.
The Bluejays struggled at both ends of the court. Offensively, Tabor shot 26 percent from the field for the game (18-70), and only 14 percent from behind the arc (3-22).
“We had some good looks that did not go, and we also took some shots early in the shot clock,” Reed said. “We also rushed some good looks. I thought we got overanxious and sped up.”
Defense was not much better. Tabor lost the battle on the boards, 37 to 52.
“We did not get back on defense, and we got out-rebounded,” Reed said. “That was the worst defense performance we have had in a while.”
The Bluejays later enjoyed an 8-0 surge when Katlyn Mary and Nikki Lewis hit back-to-back three-pointers followed by a Loren Oliver basket to narrow the Moundbuilders’ lead to 15-10 with 14:20 left in the first half.
Tabor again drew within five less than two minutes later on a Lewis basket, but Southwestern surged off Tabor misses to build a 36-18 lead at the 6:23 mark.
Tabor narrowed the gap with a 7-0 run, and Lewis scored Tabor’s final four points of the half. But Southwestern led 41-31 at intermission.
Facing zone defense in the second half, the Bluejays simply couldn’t get shots to drop. Out of 12 three-points shots, not one fell. Southwestern outscored Tabor 42-21 in the half and held a 31-point advantage when time expired.
“Southwestern effectively executed their game plan, and we did not,” Reed said.
Lewis led all scorers with 16 points. Mary added 14 for Tabor and Oliver 13. Hannah Paust grabbed 10 rebounds.
Coming––The Bluejays host red-hot Friends (14-2, 20-7), a winner of 12 straight games, Thursday at 6 p.m. before traveling to Kansas Wesleyan (10-6, 15-11) Saturday for a 5 p.m. tipoff.