Tabor women rise to relevance

The Tabor College women continued their resurrection post-season, coming from 10 points behind in the third quarter to knock off Okla­homa Wesleyan University, 60-50, on the Eagles’ home floor and earn a berth in the KCAC tournament championship game on Monday.

OKWU came out confidently, and jumped to a 9-4 lead within the first 3:30. By the end of the first quarter, the Eagles led 17-11.

OKWU pushed its lead to 20-11 at the 7:30 mark of the second quarter. But with Tabor playing hard on the defensive end and taking its time on the offensive end, OKWU managed only seven points the entire quarter.

Tabor, meanwhile, whittled OKWU’s lead to two points by halftime with a 14-10 edge in the second quarter. Taylor Deniston’s back-to-back 2-pointer and 3-pointer in the final minute pulled the Bluejays to within 27-25.

OKWU turned up the heat at the start of the second half with a 10-2 run out of the gate. With Tabor trailing 37-27, Sammy Jo Peterson hit a three at 5:25, and Ediger hit one on Tabor’s next possession. Deniston added a three at 2:06 and then 2-pointer in the final four seconds of the quarter to give the Bluejays a 44-41 lead at the final break.

The Eagles crowd was stunned by the turnaround. Now it was Tabor’s turn to push the edge coming out of a quarter break. Deniston hit a three 18 seconds in and Peterson added a traditional 3-point play at 8:49 for a 49-41 lead.

Oklahoma Wesleyan didn’t look like the first half team offensively, thanks to Tabor’s defensive effort. Amber Bonham and Ediger each nailed one more three down the stretch to secure the 10-point victory and a berth in the KCAC finals.

“We had exceptional offensive performances in both second halfs (against Bethany and OKWU), shooting 67-68 percent,” coach Shawn Reed said. “But we played better defensively as well. Both games, we were not out of it at halftime.”

Deniston led Tabor with 17 points, Kristyn Wedel added 13 from her post position. Ediger added 12 and Peterson 10. OKWU’s Cheyenne Been led all scorers with 19 points.

As a team, Tabor made 21 of 42 shots from the floor (50 percent) and eight of 19 (42 percent) from behind the 3-point line. OKWU shot 44 percent (23-52) from the floor and six of 15 (40 percent) from behind the arc.

The most astonishing numbers, however, came at the free-throw line. Tabor made 12 of 13 attempts while the Eagles never shot a single free throw the entire game.

The win gives Tabor a 17-13 record heading into Monday’s championship game, where they will face regular-season KCAC champion Friends University.

“Friends is really good,” Reed said. “They’re scary good. They’re deep, they shoot the ball well, they’re athletic, the create 25 turnovers a game on average,” Reed said.

“If we don’t take care of the ball, we could get blown out just like they’ve done to pretty much everybody else. They won our regular (KCAC) season by six games, which is unheard of. They just dominated out league this year.”

Bethany—The Tabor College women, whose season a few weeks ago seemed to be a setting sun on the horizon, have seen the dawn of a new day with a 70-60 first-round victory over Bethany College in the quarterfinal round of the KCAC tournament on Wednesday in Lindsborg.

The Bluejays, seeded No. 7 in the tournament, have renewed their chemistry with the return of all-conference player Morgan Ediger, and the Bluejays proved it with their 10-point win over No. 2 seeded Bethany.

Tabor took the offensive initiative from the start when freshman Sammy Jo Peterson drained a 3-point basket for the first points of the game.

Bethany, meanwhile, shot poorly from the start. When Tabor’s Kelsey Unruh scored in the paint at 4:45, the Blue­jays established a 10-5 lead. Tabor led 13-7 with less than a minute left in the first quarter before Bethany’s Bartel hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to narrow the lead to 13-10.

Bethany claimed the lead briefly at 17-15 three minutes into the second quarter, then nudged the lead to 21-18 at 4:50. But Tristen Leiszler tied the game with a 3-point basket, Mollie Hawkins hit two free throws and a basket, and Unruh made one of two free throws to give the Bluejays a 28-25 lead at intermission.

Tabor’s offense heated up in the second half. Taylor Deniston hit a 2-pointer and a deep 3-pointer back-to-back for a 33-27 lead. The margin stayed generally between five and eight points the rest of the quarter, which ended with Tabor leading, 48-40.

The two teams stayed mostly within that parameter during the final quarter. Despite pressure in a hostile environment, Tabor posted their emotionally huge 10-point victory over the Swedes.

Ediger finished as the Jays’ top scorer with 15 points, but Peterson was right behind with 13 and Deniston with 12. As a team, Tabor continued its hot shooting of late with 54.3 percent accuracy (24-44).

Bethany managed 34 percent accuracy (17-50), and was led by Lauren Welsch with a game-high 21 points. Tabor held the edge in 3-point shooting (8-19 for TC, 3-12 for BC), while Bethany held the edge at the free-thow line (23-30 to 14-19).