Tabor women fall in first round, celebrates season

Taylor Deniston plows through to score in the first round game at Nationals in Sioux City, Iowa. The team lost but fought hard to the end. Michael Klaassen / Tabor College
Taylor Deniston plows through to score in the first round game at Nationals in Sioux City, Iowa. The team lost but fought hard to the end. Michael Klaassen / Tabor College
Tabor’s season ended earlier than most hoped for when they lost in the first round of Nationals on Thursday. But the team had a stellar winning season that was fun for fans to watch.

After winning 21 consecutive games, the Tabor Bluejays lost the first round of the National Tournament to the Corban University Warriors. The game was a close one all the way through to the last buzzer.

Tabor trailed by three in the last 31 seconds of the game. Tristen Leiszler hit a three and tied the game with just 3 seconds left. Corban managed to get the ball and score with 0.7 seconds left on the clock. Morgan Ediger attempted a three pointer, but the shot fell short and Tabor lost. The final score was 56-54.

According to Head Coach Shawn Reed, part of what made the season so successful was the five seniors who played on the team. Morgan Ediger, Taylor Mires, Kristyn Wedel, Tristen Leiszler and Taylor Deniston have all played for Reed for all four years of college.

“They have had stellar careers,” said Reed. “Those five are all hard workers, they are great teammates, they are great people and great competitors. All of them have had things that they have had to persevere through on and off the court. I’m just proud of all of them for the people that they have become during their time at Tabor.”

Ediger and Deniston are the two highest scorers for the team.

“Morgan is just over 1300, and Taylor is just over 1200,” said Reed, in an interview on the way to Iowa.

Both women played against each other in high school where they lived close to each other in Western Kansas.

Kristyn Wedel moves in for a basket at the game against Corban University on Thursday. Wedel was the point leader for the game with 14 points and five rebounds. Michael Klaassen / Tabor College
Kristyn Wedel moves in for a basket at the game against Corban University on Thursday. Wedel was the point leader for the game with 14 points and five rebounds. Michael Klaassen / Tabor College
Ediger, from Cimarron, is most proud of winning four conference championships and going to Nationals four times. Her plans for next year include finding a place to be a graduate assistant for a women’s basketball team.

“I’ve enjoyed my time at Tabor and all of our successes. I’m glad I was able to share the different memories with people that I care about,” said Ediger.

Deniston comes from Holcomb. She plans to start looking for jobs now that the season is over, but she isn’t sure yet where she will be next year.

When asked what she is most proud of during her Tabor basketball career, she said, “The fact that all five of us have been here for four years is pretty special. And getting to experience four conference tournament championships and four trips to Nationals together.

Mires, the only one of the five from outside of Kansas, is from Cashion, Oklahoma. She plans to work as a community case manager and get her masters degree in counseling.

“I am most proud of the relationships I’ve built with my teammates and the life lessons the game has taught me. Basketball has also challenged my faith and made my relationship with God much stronger and for that I am grateful,” said Mires. “I am thankful for everyone I have met at Tabor and all the experiences that have came with my four years as a Bluejay.”

Wedel is a Marion County resident from Burns. She plans on searching for a job after Tabor.

She said, “I’m proud of all our accomplishments during the 4 years and just getting to play for a college team.”

Leiszler hopes to get into a physical therapy school and be a high school girls basketball coach. She is from Concordia.

“I am most proud of the team success we have had. No other seniors in our conference can say they have been to four straight National appearances or four straight conference tournament championships. Being successful has brought many great friendships and memories that I get to keep forever.”

Just as their coach is quick to give the women all the glory, the women credit their coach with their successful seasons.

“I have appreciated playing for coach Reed over the last four years. He teaches us the game of basketball but also how to play in the image of Christ. Reed has taught me many life lessons that I will be able to take with me and coach my athletes.” said Leiszler.

Ediger appreciates the way he challenges them on the court to be their best, but he also cares about them off the court.

“He helps us grow as people,” said Ediger.

Deniston agreed, “I appreciate how he has always been there for us both on and off the court. This year his roll changed a lot with him taking on a lot of the AD jobs, and a lot of times I think how hard he really works for us goes unnoticed.”

Reed just finished his eighth season at Tabor. In addition to coaching nine different NAIA All-America Players during his time at Tabor, he has won KCAC Coach of the Year twice with his most recent win this year.

When asked about getting Coach of the Year this year, Reed is quick to shift the focus back to his team.

“That is a huge honor. It’s a reflection on the success of the team and the hard work that our players have put in,” said Reed.