The Bluejays slid back into a tie for sixth place with their 61-57 loss to Bethany Saturday, but dodged a play-in game Monday night against McPherson.
Both the Swedes and the Bluejays finished 7-11 in the KCAC, but the No. 6 seed in the conference tournament went to Tabor.
Bethany?The Bluejays had no answer for Rhys Pihl, whose 14 points and 12 rebounds grew out of an 8-and-5 first half that sparked the Swedes to a 31-23 lead at the break.
?We allowed 10 offensive rebounds in the first half and that was the biggest difference in the half time score,? coach Shawn Winter said. ?Bethany played hard and aggressive on the defensive end and we did not make good adjustments to the way the game was being called.
?We were not patient with the ball on offense and forced too many shots without executing our offense,? he added.
Despite making just 31 pecernt of its shots during the second half, Tabor did make good on some opportunities at times in the second half. The Bluejays? strongest series added up to a 14-3 run that trimmed a 17-point deficit down to six with 12:31 to go.
The Bluejays dialed the heat up another notch with a pair of Brittany Roth layups and a Jordan Crosson jump shot that resized the Swede lead to 48-46 with 6:20 left.
But whenever Tabor ripped off a rally, Bethany hit a 3-point shot.
Jade Pihl momentarily shot down the charging Bluejays with a pair of 3-pointers, re-upping the Swede lead to six with 5:10 left.
Then came the pivotal sequence: after missing on offense, the Tabor defense forced Amber Dunham into a jump ball, but the alternating arrow pointed to the Swedes. The second opportunity allowed Bethany to set up Shalice Tommerup for a midrange jumper that made it an 8-point game.
The non-stop might not have mattered, except Tabor cut Bethany?s lead down to two, 59-57, on a 3-pointer by Chelsea Malone with 39 seconds remaining.
While Bethany?s scoring struggles continued?the Swedes net only five points in the final 4:25 despite a handful of free throw attempts?the Bluejays could not come up with a tying basket during the final 40 seconds.
Ottawa?The Bluejays used a 22-11 run to slash Ottawa?s 13-point lead, and tied the game at 54-54 on the strength of Stephanie Silvas? layup off an assist by by Kirsten Watson.
?We came out flat against Ottawa and were not executing and taking good care of the basketball,? Winter said. ?They pressure the basketball hard and deny the passing lanes as well making it difficult to move the ball. We were able to make the proper adjustments at half time of using their pressure against them by taking the ball to the basket.?
Ottawa regained the lead on its possession, but Silvas re-tied it with a layup off of Andrea Robinson?s run-out of a defensive rebound with 2:26 left in regulation.
Watson picked Braves point guard Taryn Morris? pocket on back-to-back Ottawa possessions, and the second steal led to a second-chance layup by Gina Hullet.
Hullet’s score made it 58-56 with 22 seconds left, and Tabor caught a bit of a break when Braves’ gunner Marie Goyette’s long jump shot with 17 seconds left went down as a tying 2-pointer instead of a lead-changing 3-pointer.
But the Bluejays completely took Goyette out of the equation in overtime, scoring first on Andrea Robinson’s dribble drive layup.
Then Jordan Crosson blocked Misty Stone?s shot out of bounds off of Stone, and Hullet drained two foul shots for a 62-58 Tabor lead on the offensive end.
Ottawa closed within 62-61 when Paige Gibson netted a trey, and forced a Tabor turnover on the Bluejays subsequent trip. But the Braves failed to capitalize, with Hullet rebounding Stone?s miss.
At the offensive end, the Bluejays cycled the ball to Hullet, who scored a layup off the dribble to restore a 3-point lead.
Tabor expanded its lead to five on a pair of Watson free throws.
Ottawa found Gibson completely alone on the right wing side, but her shot fell short of the rim.
Stone crashed the boards two possessions later, and lifted the Braves within 66-63 with a pair of free throws at the conclusion of a possession that saw Ottawa twice rebound its own miss.
The Bluejays flexed their rebounding muscles at the other end, setting up a Watson trey to cap a third-chance possession of their own, and Ottawa did not threaten again.
Watson led three Bluejays in double-digits with 20, while Hullet (18 points) came up a rebound shy of a double-double. Robinson added 13.
Goyette scored 28, but Tabor mitigated most of her total with a open looks from close range, outscoring Ottawa 22-10 in the paint after halftime.
Coming?Tabor will play for the right to keep playing at 7 p.m. Thursday at Southwestern. The Bluejays/Moundbuilders winner is most likely to play at Kansas Wesleyan in Saturday?s 7 p.m. semifinal.
?We will practice hard this week in preparation for our trip to Southwestern,? Winter said. ?We had half time leads in the first two games and are confident in our ability to win this game. It will take a great effort to beat a very disciplined team on their home court but we are up for the challenge.?
The tournament championship will be decided at 7 p.m. March 3 at the home of the highest seeded of the remaining teams.