Southern Oregon, who came into the tournament with only one loss, accomplished what few have been able to against Tabor. The Raiders matched the Bluejays? own defensive intensity with a press so restricting it left Tabor off-balance. In fact, the Bluejays won nearly every statistical category, but their 22 turnovers told the story.
?We haven?t been pressed that much this year, and I think yesterday we showed a little bit that we struggled with that, so we saw a lot of that today,? coach Shawn Reed said. ?They?re really athletic and long, and we drifted down the court and didn?t make solid passes.?
Tabor turned it over 14 times in the first half, including on the game?s first possession, but with three consecutive baskets, the Bluejays took a 6-2 lead.
However, the Raiders scored 12 unanswered points after that, with Tabor committing five turnovers in that stretch alone. The teams traded scores the rest of the way, giving Southern Oregon a 20-13 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Raiders? leading scorer, Ashley Claussen, left the game with an injury less than one minute into the second quarter, but Southern Oregon built its lead to double digits, 31-20. Tena Loewen and Kaleigh Troxell scored in succession, and the half ended with the Raiders leading, 33-26.
Claussen attempted to start the third quarter, but left the game within 12 seconds and did not return. Tabor used an 11-4 run to tie it at 37, and took the lead when Jurnee Reid scored at the 3:37 mark. The teams traded scores.
Following a 47-47 tie, however, Tabor committed back-to-back turnovers, allowing the Raiders to gain a 52-47 margin in a 30-second span. Kayla Wilgers answered with a triple to bring the Bluejays within 52-50 at the final break.
Southern Oregon built its lead to six, 64-58, with 6:13 to play. Taylor Hurd drained a trey, and when Amber Bonham made two free-throws, Tabor was within one, 64-63. The Bluejays played solid defense, forcing two SOU misses, but could not secure a rebound. SOU scored on its third attempt to push its lead to three. Loewen responded with a basket that made it 66-65 with 3:25 to go.
With a chance to take the lead, Tabor committed three turnovers and missed one shot on its next four possessions. SOU made just one free-throw during that time and held a 67-65 lead with less than a minute to play.
The Raiders scored again at the 35-second mark to build their lead to four, 69-65, and Tabor?s next two shots missed their mark. Tabor then began sending the Raiders to the charity stripe, and the comeback effort fell short.
Loewen led all scorers with 18 points on 9-for-9 shooting, and added 12 rebounds. Hurd scored 12 points, and Morgan Ediger 11.
Tabor concludes the season with an overall record of 28-8, having made back-to-back quarterfinal appearances at the national tournament.
?We were probably a few plays away from going to the final four, which would?ve been really special,? Reed said. ?That?s why this hurts so bad is because we all know that. I?ve been fortunate enough to do that once at Sterling as an assistant. These opportunities don?t come around that often.
?We?re on a pretty good run here, and it will take hard work and additional recruiting to be able to do this again.?
For seniors Taylor Hurd, Sam Short, Kayla Wilgers and Mallory Zuercher, it was their final game in a Tabor uniform.
Hurd and Short came to Tabor as transfers.
?(I) tried to recruit them both out of high school,??Reed said. ?They said no, and (we) were able to get them the second time. They?ve been good players the last two years. Helped us go to back-to-back elite eights.?
Wilgers and Zuercher were four-year players. Both played a role in turning the Bluejay program around.
?They said yes to coming to Tabor when we were 7-21,? Reed said. ?They really believed in the picture that I was painting and portraying that we could be, which is a program that competes well, wins championships and glorifies God. They believed in that, and they helped change our culture.? ???Tabor 80, Asbury 73 (OT)
NAIA Second Round, Friday
Tabor weathered a late Asbury rally, but forced overtime when Tabor?s leading scorer, Amber Bonham, drained a game-tying three-pointer with 19 seconds left in regulation.
The first quarter ended in a draw, with the teams locked at 14 points apiece. Six Bluejays got in the scoring column in the first quarter, led by Tena Loewen with four points.
Tabor began to settle in to start the second quarter. Aided by three-pointers from Taylor Hurd and Mallory Zuercher in just more than a minute?s time, Tabor enjoyed a 10-3 run in the first 3:05 to take a 24-17 lead.
But after that, Asbury went on a 9-3 run of its own to draw within one. The Bluejays again stretched their lead to seven before an Eagle three-point play narrowed Tabor?s lead to 35-31 at halftime.
The Bluejays found their stride after intermission. Kaleigh Troxell scored the first five points to spark a 13-2 burst that put Tabor comfortably in front, 48-33, midway through the period. The Bluejays led by as many as 16, 53-39, and took a 55-42 lead into the fourth quarter.
Tena Loewen scored a traditional three-point play at the 8:22 mark and Kaleigh Troxell made a two-pointer at 6:57 for a 60-48 margin, but then the Bluejays faltered. Tabor went 5:48 without scoring.
Asbury, meanwhile, used a 15-0 run to jump in front, 63-60.
Coach Shawn Reed noted the 12 points Asbury scored off 10 Tabor turnovers as key to the Eagles? rally.
?They were creating offense from those steals, and that really hurt us,? he said. ?I thought that was a big part of their run. We just had to take better care of the basketball and make better decisions.?
Bonham broke the drought with a basket at the 1:09 mark, but the Eagles pushed their advantage back to three with a pair of free-throws with 36 seconds left.
Reed called timeout, and with 19 seconds left, Bonham drained the game-tying trey to send it into overtime with the teams locked at 65.
Jurnee Reid and Loewen scored in succession to start the extra period, and Tabor maintained the lead. The Eagles trimmed it to 74-73 with 1:08 to play, but the Bluejays made six of their final eight free-throw attempts to nail down the seven-point win.
?We were pretty fortunate to make a shot there at the end to force it to overtime,? Reed said. ?We were definitely back-peddling a little bit. We went from being pretty aggressive to pretty defensive on both ends of the court.?
Bonham led the Bluejays with 19 points on 7-for-7 shooting from the field.. Loewen added 18 and Hurd 12.
Tabor 68, Hastings 44
NAIA First Round, Thursday
A No. 3 seed in the Duer Bracket, the Bluejays picked up a first-round victory over the sixth-seeded Broncos to start the tournament, avenging a 57-54 loss to Hastings last November.
In a defensive game, both teams jockeyed to gain the upper hand, each turning it over multiple times early. It was not until the second half that Tabor established itself and fell into rhythm.
Following a 6-6 tie, Amber Bonham scored on a traditional three-point play to ignite a 7-2 rush to end the first quarter.
Mallory Zuercher capped scoring in the period with a three-point play to give Tabor a 13-8 edge at the first break.
But Hastings came roaring back in the second period, leading by as many as 21-18 after a three-pointer midway through. After that, though, Morgan Ediger and Taylor Deniston teamed up to outscore Hastings 7-1, pushing Tabor in front at halftime, 25-22.
Zuercher and Taylor Hurd teamed up for a 6-2 burst to start the third quarter, and when Hastings scored just four points in the first five minutes, the Bluejays took full advantage, enjoying a 37-26 margin after Bonham scored at the 5:00 mark.
Hastings picked up some ground to end the period, leaving Tabor in front, 44-37.
Tabor poured on the points in the fourth quarter, outscoring Hastings, 24-7. Zuercher started things off with a trey. Ediger capped a 12-0 run with a trey of her own, putting Tabor in front, 56-37, with 6:13 to play. From there, it was smooth sailing, as Tabor cruised to the 24-point win.
Jurnee Reid led the Bluejays with 14 points. Zuercher added 11. Tena Loewen grabbed 12 rebounds to add to her nine points.