Bluejays improve to 9-1 in KCAC

Madison Schmelzer is fouled on her way to the basket during the second quarter against Kansas Wesleyan Saturday. She completed the traditional three-point play to bring Tabor within 23-22 of the Coyotes. Schmelzer scored six points in Tabor’s 62-46 win.The Tabor College women’s basketball team improved to 9-1 in KCAC play by sweeping Kansas Wesleyan and Bethany last week.

Kansas Wesleyan—Tabor overcame a two-point halftime deficit to win, 62-46, Saturday. The Bluejays held the Coyotes, who are receiving votes in the NAIA Top 25 poll, to well below their average of 73.2 points per game.

Coach Shawn Reed said his team took a step forward defensively in the victory.

“In the first half, we guarded the ball pretty well, but our other rotations weren’t very good,” Reed said. “In the second half, we were able to match the outside with the rotations on the back side, and that really helped us. And we didn’t foul. That’s a key.”

Kansas Wesleyan built a five-point, 9-4, lead then did not score the next 3:42, allowing Tabor to jump in front, 11-9. The Coyotes regained it with a 7-2 run. Morgan Ediger made a two-pointer at the buzzer to close the gap to 16-15 at the first break. By halftime, Tabor trailed, 28-26.

Tabor locked down on defense while increasing its offensive production in the second half. The Bluejays made nearly 42 percent of their second-half attempts from the field (13-for-31), scoring 36 points while limiting Kansas Wesleyan to 18 points on 30 percent shooting (7-for-23).

Tabor outscored the Coyotes, 21-10, in the third quarter. Jurnee Reid, Taylor Deniston, Tena Loewen and Tristen Leiszler contributed to a 14-6 burst that put Tabor in front, 40-34.

Kansas Wesleyan scored twice in succession after that, then went cold. Tabor ended the quarter on a 7-0 run to enjoy a 47-38 lead.

The lid remained on the Coyote basket to start the fourth quarter, as they missed their first five attempts. Tabor took advantage by scoring 12 unanswered points. By the time Nicole Decker scored at 6:47, Tabor held a 59-38 lead.

The Coyotes broke the eight-minute drought with a free-throw with 4:59 left, but Tabor was firmly in control. The Bluejays led by as many as 23 in their 16-point win.

Deniston led Tabor’s scoring effort with 11 points. Reid and Loewen each scored 10.

“At halftime, I told them, ‘We’re fine. We’re right where we want to be. This is going to be a war of attrition,’ and it was,” Reed said. “Guarding that offense is hard, but running that offense when you guard it tough is hard, so that cuts both ways. I’m just proud of our kids and what they were able to do.”

Bethany—Tabor gutted out a 72-61 victory Thursday.

In an evenly-played first quarter, Bethany took a 14-13 lead by the end of it with a buzzer-beating three-pointer.

Tabor opened the second quarter on a 7-0 run, with Morgan Ediger contributing the first five points of the period. By the time Taylor Deniston scored off a turnover, Tabor led, 20-14. But just as quickly, Bethany tied the game at 20. Sydney Webb scored Tabor’s next five points.

With Tabor leading, 27-26, Kaleigh Troxell scored the Bluejays’ final eight points of the half, including a pair of threes. Tabor clung to a 35-34 lead at halftime. Ediger scored 11 of her game-high 15 points in the first half.

The teams engaged in a back-and-forth battle in the third quarter. Tabor gained the upper hand, outscoring the Swedes, 18-16, to take a 53-50 lead into the final quarter.

After Bethany scored, Deniston hit two- and three-point baskets to extend Tabor’s lead, but Bethany outscored Tabor, 6-2, after that to draw within 60-58 with 6:03 left in the game.

Tabor burst to the finish with a 12-3 run with contributions from five Bluejays, led by Madison Schmelzer with four points.

“(Bethany) made four of six threes in the first half, which is a really high percentage for them,” coach Shawn Reed said. “They got some momentum. They started to believe. And we just didn’t have defensive intensity or execution, and our rebounding wasn’t good. But in the fourth quarter, we kind of turned it on a little bit and were able to kind of run the score out.”

Three Bluejays joined Ediger in double-digit scoring: Deniston 13, Webb 13 and Troxell 10.

Tabor shot 45 percent from the field (28-for-62), compared with 37 percent for Bethany (22-for-60).

Coming—Tabor (9-1, 14-3) will travel to Oklahoma Wesleyan (5-5, 9-9) Thursday for a 6 p.m. game and will start the second half of the KCAC season at Bethel (0-10, 1-13) Saturday at 5 p.m.

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