Tabor women win one, lose one

Taylor Hurd shoots for two during the second half at Friends Wednesday and draws a foul in the process. She made one of two free throws. Hurd scored 13 points in Tabor?s 84-77 loss. Janae Rempel / Free Press

After splitting two games last week, the Tabor College women?s basketball team is in a three-way tie for first place in the KCAC, thanks to a Friends loss to Sterling Saturday.

Saint Mary?Tabor turned a one-point halftime deficit into a 58-51 lead at the final buzzer Saturday.

The Bluejays made a change to their starting lineup, adding Tena Loewen to the mix, starting Kaleigh Troxell at point guard and again moving Tonisha Dean to the wing.

?We felt good about the results that we got for the first time trying it,? coach Shawn Reed said. ?We?ll see if we can continue to get better.?

After the Spires opened the contest with a three-pointer, Troxell fired back with a three. That was the start of an 11-0 Bluejay run that put Tabor in front by eight when Taylor Hurd scored at 13:12.

With Tabor leading, 15-7, the Spires used a 14-2 run to take a 21-17 lead, and the Spires led by as many as 25-20, but Kayla Wilgers closed the first half with three free throws to trim it to 27-26 at halftime. Tabor shot 33.3 percent from the field in the first half (9-27).

?We didn?t shoot the ball particularly well in the first half,? Reed said. ?In the second half, we just played a lot better. Made more shots. And we dominated the boards.?

The Bluejays outrebounded the Spires, 46-26, and pulled down 17 offensive boards in the game. Tabor?s shooting percentage increased to 42.3 percent in the second half (11-26), a result of the Bluejays? efforts on the offensive glass, Reed said.

Tabor outscored Saint Mary 10-4 after the break, with contributions from Mallory Zuercher, Dean, Loewen and Erin Maxwell.

The teams battled to a 41-41 tie, then Zuercher and Loewen combined for 11 points to give Tabor a 52-45 edge with 4:11 to play. The closest the Spires got after that was within 52-49, but Tabor maintained the lead and won by seven.

Tabor shot 37.7 percent from the field (20-53), while the Spires shot 43.5 percent (20-46). Dean and Zuercher shared top scoring honors for Tabor with 15 points apiece.

Friends?Wednesday?s game pitted teams battling for sole possession of first place in the KCAC. After Tabor suffered through a miserable first half, it appeared the Falcons were well on their way to victory.

But a massive rally cry brought about by a strategic coaching plan fueled a furious Bluejay comeback to the tune of 60 second-half points. But the effort was too late, as Tabor come up just short, 84-77.

The Bluejays endured an ugly first half against Friends? stifling defense, making five of 24 shots from the field (20.8 percent), including 3-of-14 from three (21.4 percent). By halftime, Tabor had as many turnovers as points: 17. Friends scored 20 points off turnovers while shooting 55.6 percent from the field (15-27) to enjoy a 35-17 halftime lead.

Tonisha Dean and Taylor Hurd combined for Tabor?s first 10 points of the second half, but the Falcons pulled away to lead by 25, 57-32.

With Tabor trailing 57-37 at 10:32, Reed pulled Janzen, Dean, Hurd, Troxell and Tena Loewen from the game and brought in five subs off his bench: Amber Bonham, Ali Nakvinda, Emily Peterson, Amber Tamez and MacKenzie Suderman.

?I told them, ?We?re going to foul immediately here at the first, and then we?re going to slowly back away and try and trap,?? Reed said. ?And then I was going to work the other group back in. I had a plan.?

Following every Friends possession, Reed subbed the first group back in. For more than three minutes, the two groups cycled continuously in and out.

?There?s two reasons why we would implement that,? Reed said. ?The first one is, they?re not a very good free-throw shooting team. The second part is, when you do that, it just changes the whole flow and the rhythm of the game.

?It?s ugly. I don?t like it that way, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and so that?s what we did.?

The Falcons made only 9-of-18 free throws during that stretch, and by the time Hurd scored at 6:18, Tabor had cut the lead to 70-55. With the Bluejays no longer subbing as before, Tabor trimmed the lead after back-to-back Falcon turnovers. Dean scored and Janzen added a free throw for a 70-58 margin with 4:49 to play.

Friends extended it to 80-61 with 1:27 left, but Tabor turned up the heat. Kayla Wilgers lit the fire with a three, and the Bluejays forced five Falcon turnovers in the final minute. Loewen and Dean chipped in a basket, and when Troxell made a three, Tabor had cut it to 82-71 with 28 seconds left.

Friends turned the ball over on its next three possessions, while Tabor scored on each trip down the floor, drawing within 82-77 when Dean scored with just 9.4 seconds to play. The rally fell short, though, as the Falcons scored their final two points from the charity stripe.

?I wasn?t trying to do anything other than give my team what I do every time?a chance to win,? Reed said. ?We wouldn?t have implemented that had we started the game somewhat decently.

?I was proud of our kids for not giving up, but I?m really not a coach that believes in moral victories.?

Tabor committed 28 turnovers in the game and shot 37.7 percent from the field (23-61). Dean led with 20 points, followed by Hurd 13, Janzen 11 and Loewen 10.

Coming?Tabor (9-3, 13-11), who is receiving votes in the latest NAIA Top 25 poll, will host McPherson (3-9, 4-20) Thursday at 6 p.m. The Bluejays will host Bethel (6-6, 9-12) Saturday with a 5 p.m. tip-off.

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