Bluejay women end brief NAIA run with first-round loss to Saint Xavier

Tabor College both opened and ended their journey at the NAIA Div. II Women’s National Cham­pionship with a 67-47 loss Thursday to Saint Xavier (Ill.) at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.

The Bluejays, seeded No. 8 in their eight-team tournament quadrant, hung with the top-ranked Cougars through the first quarter.

Saint Xavier scored the first eight points of the game just 2:30 into the first quarter. But Morgan Ediger’s 2-point basket at the 7:00 mark ignited a Bluejay rally that pulled Tabor to within 15-14 when Amber Bonham scored with 2:36 to play.

Saint Xavier responded with two baskets in the final 30 seconds for a 20-14 lead at the first break.

As good as the first quarter was for Tabor, the second quarter proved to be the team’s downfall. Saint Xavier took charge with a 17-0 run out of the gate, as the Bluejays missed every shot they took, from 3-point land to layup-ville.

Ediger hit a 3-point basket with 47 seconds left in the quarter to break the ice, and Taylor Deniston added a basket in the paint to make the halftime score 41-19.

The Bluejays held their own against the Cougars during the second half, but simply did not have the shooting touch they needed to close the gap against the top-ranked team. By the end of the third quarter, Tabor trailed Saint Xavier 52-29.

The Bluejays shaved the deficit as close as 17 points in the fourth quarter when Deniston scored a layup and a bonus free throw at the 6:32 mark for a 56-39 score. But the Cougars were never really threatened, and cleared their bench in the final two minutes on the way to the 67-47 final.

Deniston scored 13 points and Bonham added 10 points to lead Tabor.

As a team, the Bluejays shot a meager 29 percent (17-58) from the floor, including 3-20 from behind the arc (15 percent). For what it was worth, Tabor was dynamite from the free-throw line with a 10-for-10 showing.

Saint Xavier, meanwhile, had four players in double figures. Brittany Collins led the way with 21 points, Maddie Welter added 17 and Chanel Fanter and Kara Krolicki each added 13.

As a team, the Cougars made 47 percent (27-58) of their field-goal attempts, including 7-17 from 3-point range.

With the win, Saint Xavier improved its record to 30-2 and advanced to the round of 16. Tabor’s season ends with a record of 18-14.

The Cougars went on to defeat No. 4 Morningside, 84-71 on Friday and Hastings, 72-62, to advance to the semifinals on Mon­day night.

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