Tabor women win KCAC tournament

The 20th-ranked Tabor College women’s basketball team knocked off 11th-ranked and top-seeded Friends in the KCAC tournament finals last Monday by a score of 74-70.

Friends had gotten the best of the Bluejays in the teams’ two regular-season meetings, but Monday proved the third time’s the charm.

Both teams started the game on fire offensively, and the first quarter ended with Friends and Tabor each shooting upwards of 70 percent from the field.

Friends scored 20 of its 28 first-quarter points in the paint, while four of Tabor’s eight made baskets in the first quarter were from three-point range. Kaleigh Troxell made three of them, including Tabor’s first basket to light the fuse.

Coach Shawn Reed praised his team for its execution against Friends’ full-court press, but Tabor still committed its share of turnovers—23 for the game—against the Falcons’ stifling defense.

“I felt like what we wanted to do against their full-court press worked pretty well, but against the half-court, I was still disappointed because we had quite a few turnovers, and a lot of those turnovers led to easy points for them,” Reed said. “But we were able to overcome that with some good shooting, some driving to the bucket and getting to the free-throw line.”

In a 1:41 span early on, Friends benefitted from three Bluejay turnovers and two misses to enjoy an 11-0 run before Troxell broke the drought with her second three-pointer at the 5:50 mark. Troxell made her third trey to bring Tabor within 17-14, and Tabor trailed by five, 28-23, at the first break. The Bluejays made 73 percent of their attempts from the field in the quarter (8-for-11). Friends made 71 percent (12-for-17).

Friends’ Shann Sellers scored 12 of her game-high 32 points in the first quarter, her offense fueled by steals and scoring in transition.

“We really tried to focus on (Lexi) Evans and (Makenzie) Vining, and I thought we did a good job on those two kids,” Reed said. “Shann is going to get her points and there’s nothing you can do about that. I think when you key on her too much, you open up some of those other people, so we tried to kind of contain those other people more and not worry as much about her and I think that helped.”

Ediger and Troxell contributed to a 6-0 Bluejay run to start the second quarter to put Tabor in front by one, 29-28, but by halftime, Friends had reclaimed the lead, 39-35.

The Falcons increased their margin to 46-37 after intermission, but Tabor began to chip away at the deficit. Troxell made her fourth and fifth three-pointers in the quarter. Her fifth brought Tabor within 53-50 at the final break.

Friends led by as many as 55-50, but Tabor battled down the stretch, nailing all 16 free-throws attempted in the quarter, led by Ediger, who was a perfect 8-for-8.

For the game, Tabor was 23-for-24 at the charity stripe (96 percent), and the Bluejays made 56 percent of their attempts from the field (22-for-39), including 44 percent from three (7-for-16). Friends made 48 percent of its field goal attempts (27-for-56).

Ediger led Tabor’s scoring effort with 19 points. Loewen and Troxell each scored 17. Troxell was 5-for-8 from three-point range.

The win gave Tabor its second-consecutive tournament championship.

“I was happy to win the tournament and happy for our players,” Reed said. “Friends is a really good team, and we’ve struggled with them this year. To beat a really good team in a big game right before you go to the national tournament is exciting. I was proud of our players and the way that they hung in there because the way that game started, we could’ve gotten pretty discouraged pretty quickly.”