The Tabor College women are no longer undefeated in the KCAC.
Bethany, with a 3-3 record in conference play, caught the Bluejays on an off night, and pulled off a 51-50 upset in Hillsboro.
Tabor struggled from the start, missing their first four shots from the field before Sammy Jo Peterson hit a pair of free throws at the 7:14 mark of the first quarter.
The Bluejays made only four of 13 shots, but it was enough for a 14-11 lead as the first quarter ended.
By halftime, Tabor seemed to be in control of the contest even as its shooting woes continued. When Kelsey Unruh hit a pair of free throws with 1:42 left in the first half, Tabor enjoyed its first double-digit lead at 27-16.
But Bethany rallied with a 6-2 surge to cut Tabor’s halftime lead to 29-22.
As the third quarter began, Tabor was getting its act together with a 9-2 run and a 38-24 lead after the first 5:25. Tabor still led comfortably when the quarter ended at 43-32.
But the fourth quarter went flat for Tabor. Bethany outscored the Bluejays 6-0 at the start to cut the lead to five points.
With Tabor still leading, 49-42, with only four minutes left, the momentum suddenly turned.
The Swedes finished the game with a 9-1 run. A basket by Bethany’s Lauren Welsch with 1:11 left gave the Swedes their first lead since they scored the very first basket of the game.
Training 51-50, Tabor had plenty of time to pull the game out of the fire, but could not find a way do so. With 23.5 seconds left, Tabor’s top scorer, Morgan Ediger, hurt her wrist as she hit the floor after blocking a Bethany shot in the lane.
Ediger stayed in the game, but her potentially game-winning shot at the buzzer missed the mark.
Ediger and Leiszler both contributed 13 points to lead Tabor, who shot 35 percent (17-48) from the floor. Welsch was Bethany’s star for the game, leading all scorers with 16 points.
The loss surprised most of the Bluejays fans, but not coach Shawn Reed.
“I had a sense two days ago in practice,” he said. “When you win a game against what I think is a good team (Saint Mary on Wednesday) and it looks pretty easy, and everybody tells you how good you are, you start believing it and you quit doing what you need to do to be a really good team.
“Bethany is well coached,” he added. “They outworked us, they outplayed us. They did everything they needed to do to win.
“We had opportunities to put the game away, but we just took our foot off the pedal and let them back in and they outscored us 19-7 in the fourth quarter.
“We just played lazy and didn’t deserve to win,” Reed said. “Bethany played great and deserved to win.”
The loss leaves Tabor with a 6-1 conference record (8-3 overall), and in second place behind Friends at 7-1 (9-4). Bethany improved to 4-3 and 8-6.
University of Saint Mary—Tabor showed why this team is the unbeaten leader on the KCAC, throttling the eighth-place Spires, 80-43, on Wednesday.
The Bluejays sent a message from the start, making nine of their first 11 shots from the field while limiting the Spires to 4-for-14 shooting. By the end of the quarter, 23-10.
As bad as it was at the start, Saint Mary fans had even less to cheer about after that point. Tabor’s Morgan Ediger poured in 11 points during the second quarter to help inflate the home team’s lead to 44-18 by halftime.
About the only unknown about the game was whether the Bluejays might reach the century mark by the end of the contest.
They didn’t, but the Bluejays remained cohesive, effective and impressive the entire second half, pushing the disparity between the two teams to 68-29 through three quarters, and well on the way to the final 46-point spread at the end.
The Bluejays shot 64.2 percent (34-53) from the floor, including 9-for-13 (69 percent) shooting from behind the arc. Meanwhile, the Spires shot 25 percent (15-60) from the floor, including 3-for-21 (14 percent) from behind the arc.
“Our defense throughout the whole game was pretty good,” Reed said. “The beginning of the third quarter we had a couple of let-downs, but other than that it was pretty solid.”
Ediger finished the game with 25 points, Taylor Deniston added 18. Nobody on USM managed to break double-digits.
“I thought we ran our stuff pretty well and got some good looks,” Reed said. “Morgan played really well and hit some shots. We just had good effort all the way around. I was pleased with how they performed.”
Tabor is now 6-0 in the KCAC and 8-2 for the season. USM slipped to 2-4 and 5-6.