Tabor women have yet another remarkable year

Remember the saying “The thrill of victory and agony of defeat”? That applies to the season-ending loss for the Tabor College women’s basketball team at the national NAIA tournament.

The Bluejays won the regular season KCAC title this year, and the subsequent conference tournament championship for the fourth year in a row. That is an amazing accomplishment at any level and extremely hard to do. In fact, in the last four years, between the postseason tournament and regular season, Tabor won six out of eight possible titles in the KCAC. That’s a great example of domination.

The KCAC tournament championship is played in Park City’s Hartman Arena, which has basically turned into Tabor’s home away from home.

Tabor entered the NAIA national tournament on a 21-game winning streak, with the nation’s top defense and five seniors. Their overall record entering the tournament as the No. 3 seed in their bracket, was 28-3.

Coach Shawn Reed has been at the helm of the Bluejays for seven years. His teams advanced to the Elite Eight in both 2015 and 2016 in the NAIA Division II National Tournament. Last year, Tabor finished 27-7 and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.

While it’s difficult to predict how a team will fare at nationals, I’m sure the players, Coach Reed, and Tabor fans were expecting the senior-laden team to last more than one game. It was their sixth straight trip to the NAIA National Tournament, so the stage shouldn’t have been too overwhelming for this veteran team.

In fact, if you would have told Coach Reed before the game that his team would have 17 more shot attempts than his opponent and cause 21 turnovers while only committing 10, I’m sure he would have liked his chances.

Alas, Tabor only made 39 percent of its shots and 27 percent from the three-point line, while Corban University shot 60 percent from the floor.

Tabor tied the game at 54 with three seconds left. But Corban found a way to get the ball to Boise State transfer Jordan Woodvine, who hit a jumper with 0.7 seconds left to play for the game winner. So the Bluejays finished with an overall record of 28-4. Next year is likely to be tougher, with a strong senior class graduating, but I doubt anyone in the conference will feel sorry for Tabor.

All teams and programs go through cycles. Tabor has had remarkably strong cycles in the last 12-15 years in football, men’s basketball, volleyball, and women’s basketball.

It’s one thing to have a good year, but it’s quite another to sustain success like the women’s basketball team has in recent years.

As well as Reed’s team has done on the court, they’ve done equally as well or better off the court. The overall team GPA was 2.95 in 2011-12, and has climbed steadily to an overall team GPA of 3.61 in 2016-17. It’s one thing to say that academics are important. It’s another altogether to show that it actually matters.

On Tabor’s website, Reed said: “It was great watching them grow as players, and more importantly as people and in Christ. That’s the most important thing to me. I think the seniors will leave Tabor with great basketball memories.”

The bottom line is that Tabor experienced the thrill of victory a whole lot more than the agony of defeat this year. But sports has a way of making the agony of defeat sting a little more when you set your expectations higher and come up a little short.