A slow start by the Tabor College women contributed to a missed opportunity for a victory Saturday against Oklahoma Wesleyan, the second-place team in the KCAC.
The Bluejays battled back courageously in the second half to tie the game at 65 with 42 seconds to play, only to lose 68-65 on a 3-point basket in the waning seconds.
The Eagles jumped to a 12-0 lead before Tabor’s Taylor Deniston scored on a drive to the basket with 5:16 left in the first quarter. OKWU expanded its lead to 17-4 by the end of it.
“We can’t start a game like that and get down 17-4,” coach Shawn Reed said. “We had some good looks and (shots) didn’t go, and we shot way too many threes.”
The Bluejays began to right themselves as the second quarter began. They more or less battled the Eagles to a stalemate with a 13-12 edge for the quarter and a 29-17 deficit at halftime.
The magic began clicking for Tabor in the third quarter, resulting in one of their most efficient and productive two quarters in recent weeks.
The Bluejays scored easy baskets on their first three possessions, and continued that trend to the end of the quarter, narrowing the deficit to 50-42.
Tabor launched another surge as the fourth quarter began. Deniston opened with a three, Kelsey Unruh scored a two and Morgan Ediger drilled a three to cut the margin to 52-50 at the 8-minute mark.
After hanging close to the Eagles for several minutes, Tabor finally caught OKWU at 65 when Leiszler nailed a 3-point shot with 42 seconds left to the delight of a roaring home crowd on Spirit Night.
But the Eagles’ Dania Goodwin hit what turned out to be the winning 3-point shot with 15 seconds left.
Leiszler launched an open 3-point shot with 4.6 seconds remaining, but the ball bounced off the back of the rim and time ran out.
Tabor’s offense improved in the second half, but Reed was disappointed in this team’s defensive effort.
“We can’t let our opponents shoot 57 percent and expect to win,” he said. “We’ve got to do a lot better job defensively. We’ll continue to try to improve on that and get better.
“(Offensively) the second half was great. We had four players in double figures, but that first half was just so bad that it didn’t matter.”
Deniston led the Bluejays with 18 points. Ediger added 13, Leiszler 12 and Unruh 10.
As poorly as Tabor shot in the first quarter, their second-half accuracy elevated them to 44 percent shooting (24-55) for the game.
With the loss, Tabor slipped to 11-9 in KCAC play and 14-12 for the season. The Eagles improved to 13-7 and 19-9.
Sterling—With five players scoring in double digits, the Bluejays defeated the Warriors on their home court, 79-71, to snap their five-game losing streak.
The game marked the brief return of Morgan Ediger, the team’s leading scorer who had been out for 14 games with a wrist injury.
The two teams finished in a 15-15 tie by the end of the opening quarter. Sterling’s biggest lead was 13-7 when Kylah Comley hit a pair of free throws at 4:08. But baskets by Kelsey Unruh and Taylor Mires, plus a pair of free throws by Taylor Deniston tied the game at 13 with 33 seconds left.
Sammy Jo Peterson put Tabor on top with a pair of free throws, but Comley scored in the paint to tie the game in the final seconds.
With the game tied at 20 at the 6:26 mark, Tabor launched an 8-0 run with two free throws by Kristyn Wedel, baskets by Ediger, Unruh and Wedel for a 28-20 advantage.
The Bluejays claimed a 39-29 halftime lead when Unruh drained a 3-point basket with 13 seconds left.
The second half essentially was a standoff by the two squads. Sterling edged Tabor in the third quarter, 21-19, and the two teams finished the game with a 21-point effort down the stretch.
Tabor’s biggest lead of the half was 45-34, when Deniston scored at the 7:10 mark of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Sterling rallied to tie the game at 63 on a three by Comley at 6:33 and then edged ahead 66-65 on a score by Theus at 3:17. Tabor expanded the lead again to 74-66 on a three by Ediger at 1:23 and maintained the eight-point lead as the game ended.
Ediger played 20 minutes in her return to action and finished the game with 13 points. Deniston led the Bluejays with 19, Unruh added 13 and Wedel and Mires each contributed 10 points to the victory.
Comley, who played from start to finish, led all scorers with 33 points. Jordin Greer and Theus added 12 and Kennedy Sokoloski 10.
As a team Tabor shot 51 percent (27-53) from the floor and made 19 of 24 free throws. Sterling shot 42 percent (25-60) for the game, including 8-17 from three and 13-17 from the free-throw line.