Bluejays battle unbeaten Builders

Mallory Zuercher draws a foul late in the first half at Southwestern Saturday. She made two free throws to boost Tabor?s lead to 30-27. Zuercher contributed 13 points in Tabor?s 66-63 loss. The Tabor College women had a chance to upset a ninth-ranked Southwestern team still unbeaten in KCAC play, but the effort fell just short Saturday, 66-63.

?It was a great game, and I thought we played hard,? coach Shawn Reed said. ?We didn?t turn the ball over, and we outrebounded them. But we didn?t make shots, and when you don?t make shots, it?s hard to win.?

Southwestern enjoyed a 19-12 advantage with 9:15 left in the first half. But Tabor rallied and tied the game at 21 when Mallory Zuercher drained a three-pointer at 6:59.

Tabor took its first lead at 26-25, and led the remainder of the half. Nikki Lewis?s basket gave Tabor a 32-27 lead at intermission.

Tonisha Dean opened the second quarter with a basket that gave the Bluejays their largest lead of the night. But Southwestern outscored Tabor 15-8 after that to tie the game at 42 with 13:27 left in the game.

After the Moundbuilders took a two-point lead, Tabor regained it with a three-point play by Lewis, a basket by Zuercher and a Dean three-pointer that put Tabor up 50-44 with 9:30 to play.

Tabor led 52-46 with 8:14 to go, but a burst of 15 unanswered points by South?western when Tabor shots refused to fall left the Blue?jays trailing 61-52 with 3:42 to play.

Zuercher and Lewis each hit a three-pointer to bring Tabor within 64-60, and Lewis hit another three at 1:29 for the final 66-63 margin.

After Southwestern missed a late shot, Tabor could not get a good look at the basket. Lewis?s desperation attempt at a tying three-pointer was blocked at the buzzer.

?We?ll hang in there, but it?s just disappointing because we definitely could have won,? Reed said.

Lewis led all scorers with 20 points. Zuercher added 13 and Dean 12.

With only two conference games left, Southwestern (16-0, 24-3) clinched top honors in the KCAC as a result of Saturday?s win. Friends, ranked 22nd, currently sits in second place at 13-3, 22-6. Tabor is third at 12-4, 17-9.

Ottawa?Tabor struggled to get shots to fall in the first half Thursday, but picked up its game in the second half for a 62-58 victory.

?I thought defensively we played better in the second half,? coach Shawn Reed said. ?It was really a tale of two halves. (Ottawa) played better in the first, we played better in the second.?

The teams remained within three points early in the game until Tonisha Dean followed a Janelle Rust three-pointer with a basket for a 13-8 Tabor advantage.

Ottawa cut the lead to 15-14 before Tabor scored six unanswered points for its largest margin of the half, 21-14. The Braves later scored eight straight points, including two three-pointers for a 25-23 lead with 3:09 left in the half. The half ended with the Braves holding a 27-26 lead.

?We just played tight, I thought, in the first half,? Reed said. ?We played not to lose instead of playing to win.?

Neither team gained much separation to start the second half until Dean made a layup that sparked a six-point run that included a layup by Nikki Lewis and basket by Kaleigh Troxell. The burst put Tabor ahead 39-32.

When Erin Maxwell and Mallory Zuercher scored back-to-back buckets, Tabor led 43-33. Ottawa reduced it to 45-42 before Lewis scored Tabor?s next nine points to out the Bluejays in front 54-44 with 5:29 to go.

When Tabor struggled to hit shots, Ottawa cut the margin to 59-57. The Braves sent Dean to the free-throw line with 14.7 seconds left. She made the front end of a one-and-one to increase Tabor?s margin to three.

After an Ottawa timeout, Tabor fouled Mikayla Skid?more.

?We decided to foul because we got burned on that earlier this year,? Reed said. ?A girl hit a half-court shot and we lost in overtime.

?Four things have to go right (for Ottawa) for that not to work. They have to make the first (free throw) and miss the second, and that?s hard to do. Then they have to get the rebound, which they almost did, and then they have to score.?

At the line, Skidmore made the first free throw. She missed the second shot, and the Bluejays could not secure the rebound. But Tabor gained possession when the ball went out of bounds.

That forced the Braves to send Loewen to the charity stripe with 5.6 seconds left. She made two free throws to seal the victory.

Dean led Tabor with 22 points. Lewis added 14.

Coming?Tabor will travel to University of Saint Mary (2-14, 3-22) Thursday for a 6 p.m. game and will host 22nd-ranked Friends (13-3, 22-6) in an important conference finale Saturday at 5 p.m.

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