Indiana Wesleyan advanced to the semifinals by defeating the reigning tournament champion Hastings Broncos, 61-52, in the third round on Saturday.
On Wednesday, Tabor defeated the Cardinal Stritch Wolves in the first round of the tournament by a final score of 46-41.
“The season saw us meet our goals of creating a Christ-centered environment on the team and getting to the national tournament,” coach Rusty Allen said.
“It was another really good season for our program,” he added. “The players and coaches who took part in it will have a really good memories of it.”
Indiana Wesleyan 61, Tabor 44
Second round, NAIA tournament
With a pair of early 3-pointers—one from Emily Vogts, the other from Stacie Herman—the Bluejays took an early lead over the tournament’s top-seeded team on Friday.
Five Bluejays scored in the first half, and Tabor led by margins of 6-4, 8-6 and 12-10 in the opening minutes.
At 9:10, Vogts picked up her second foul of the first half and at 8:47 Wesleyan’s Liz Howerth scored a 2-point shot to tie the game at 12.
“When Emily picked up her second foul, that hurt,” coach Rusty Allen said. “She’s by far our best matchup for Howerth in man-to-man defense.”
But even with the Bluejays playing out of their defensive comfort zone, neither team was able to lead by more than two until the Wildcats scored consecutive baskets to convert a 12-12 tie into a 17-12 advantage with 6:46 to go in the half.
Nicole Ellis ended that 5-0 spurt with a pair of free throws at 6:32.
On Tabor’s next trip, Stacie Herman used a crisp stop-and-go move in traffic to get open for a pull-up jumper, which she buried to make it 17-16.
On the next possession, Herman assisted as Ellis put in a 2-pointer, and Tabor took its fourth lead of the afternoon, 18-17, with 5:20 to go in the half.
But Howerth sparked a 10-4 run to end the first half with a score of 28-21.
Indiana Wesleyan opened the second half with another 10-4 run, giving the Wildcats a 45-34 lead only 3:59 into the second frame.
In one sequence early in the second half, the Wildcats missed a 3-pointer and the ball caromed into Howerth’s hands. Howerth slashed to the basket and drew a foul for a potential 3-point play. She missed the foul shot, but came up with the rebound and scored again at 17:06.
“I thought we prepared well,” Allen said. “She’s just really good. Perhaps if we’d have had more time to prepare, we could have done some things to slow her down.
“The problem is, she’s surrounded by a lot of good players. If you give her too much attention, she gets others involved who can hurt you just as bad.”
The Wildcats pushed their lead to 37-26, and Tabor responded by dialing up its defensive intensity.
“With Emily in foul trouble, we had to play a zone when we didn’t always want to go that route,” Allen said. “By the time the fouls were no longer a factor, we weren’t really in striking distance to play our man-to-man defense the way we like to play it.”
Erin Runge hounded Howerth into a turnover at 15:25. On the ensuing possession, Herman drew a foul by crashing into a Wildcat who blocked her path to the basket.
“Stacie made all of her free throws, all of her 3-point shots, led us in scoring and defended well,” Allen said. “She was really ready to play and she finished on a great note.”
Herman’s free throws made it 37-30. Howerth had a bead on a short shot at 14:55 when Runge came across and swatted the ball away. Unluckily for the Bluejays, Howerth recovered and picked up an assist on a 3-point basket by Stephanie Culp.
The trey was Indiana Wesleyan’s only score during a 2:25 span as Tabor mounted a 10-3 charge to cut the margin to 40-34. But a 9-0 run sparked the Wildcats to a 21-10 finish.
“I thought we did all the things it would have taken to win, except we made about eight too many turnovers,” Allen said.
“Everything else we did a pretty good job of: we got to the offensive boards, we moved the ball and shot well considering how well they played defense on us, and I thought we defended really well.”
Howerth finished with 26 points and Culp scored 14 for Indiana Wesleyan.
Ellis (10 points), Vogts (11) and Herman (12) finished in double-digits for the Bluejays.
Tabor 46, Cardinal Stritch 41
First round, NAIA tournament
The 8:30 a.m. start may have contributed to a choppy game, but Tabor came away with the five point win, to their credit.
“It was a defensive battle,” coach Rusty Allen said.”We got pressure on their ball handlers and it wore on them. I’m really proud of our guards.”
Emily Vogts got the Bluejays out of the gate in a flash when she caught a pass in the middle of the lane and drilled an uncontested 2-pointer only 18 seconds after she won the opening tipoff.
But Cardinal Stritch bounced back with a 3-pointer at 18:24, and after that, the teams combined to miss six straight shots.
Stacie Herman tied the game with a foul shot at 16:40, and the Wolves made it 5-3 at 15:20.
Cardinal Stritch pushed their lead to 11-5 over the next 7:52. With 4:12 to go, Shamiah Reid made it 15-9.
Tabor did not break double digits until 2:54 remained, when Vogts scored a 2-point field goal that made it 17-11 and sparked an 8-2 run.
Vogts buried two free throws and tied the game at 17 with 35 seconds left before halftime.
“Leadership was important,” Allen said. “Our seniors kept us from getting distracted. Emily, Nicole (Ellis) and Donya (Anderson) kept us matched up and took charge.”
With 12 seconds to go, Cardinal Stritch forward Megan Shirey made it 19-17. Cardinal Stritch opened up a 23-18 lead 1:15 into the second half, but a 15-4 run in Tabor’s favor over the next 10:42 proved to be the difference in the game.
Ellis scored the first baskets of the run. She scored a 2-pointer from the left block and followed it by finishing a play off a pass from Andrea Robinson.
The Wolves’ next possession ended when Anderson stole the ball and fed it ahead to Herman, who knifed to the basket and made it a one-point game.
Erin Runge drew a foul on Tabor’s next trip to the offensive end, and she buried both free throws for a 26-25 Bluejay lead.
With 12:48 to play, Vogts vigorously blocked Shirey’s shot to give the lead back to Cardinal Stritch. She came away with the loose ball, made an outlet pass and ran the floor with Herman.
Herman then swung a pass back to Vogts, who was one-on-one with Shirey a stride beyond the left side of the lane. From there, Vogts spun to the basket and scored to make it 28-25.
Marianna Herrera scored a 2-pointer on Cardinal Stritch’s next possession, and Herman powered through a blocked shot to make it 30-27 with 11:41 to go.
The Wolves’ next trip ended in a shot blocked by Runge, but Vogts picked up an offensive foul at 11:19.
The teams combined to miss seven consecutive shots over the next 2:03. Anderson converted an offensive rebound into a 32-27 Tabor lead at 9:16. Then Robinson gave the Bluejays a 35-29 lead with a 3-pointer.
Three straight fouls were called against Tabor and the Wolves bounced back with 7-2 run, but Vogts put a stop to that with a pair of foul shots at 3:23.
“They had some success on the offensive glass during their rally,” Allen said. “But they missed some free throws and we were able to stop their run.”
Tabor outscored Cardinal Stritch 5-3 in the final 1:30.
Tabor took its biggest lead of the morning, 46-38, when Watson scored both ends of a double-bonus free-throw opportunity with 12 seconds left.
Vogts finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
“My goodness,” Allen said. “She had a huge game. She got to the basket and made all her free throws. On top of that was the thing that really helped us—the way she guarded Shirey.”
Shirey finished with four points, nine fewer than her season average.