Aside from the postgame Gatorade bath, Monday’s KCAC women’s basketball championship game was less stressful for Tabor coach Shawn Reed than he planned.
Tabor was a clear underdog after losing twice in the regular season to No. 8 Southwestern, but the Bluejays dismantled their nationally ranked foes 85-51 at Hartman arena.
The Bluejays earned an automatic bid to the NAIA national tournament starting March 19 in Frankfort, Ky. Tabor earned that spot with a convincing performance that included a 15-0 second-half run and 10 three-pointers.
“I didn’t expect this, you can say that for sure,” Reed said. “…They earned this themselves; they’re the ones that kind of figured this out.”
Tabor (22-10) played with more energy and collectively shot better from the perimeter to start the game than Southwestern (29-4), and neither of those attributes were ever worn out. The Bluejays led by 20 at halftime and continued to extend the lead in the second half, when it scored 12 of the first 14 points.
Everything the Bluejays tried seemed to work. They made two deep three-pointers at the end of the shot clock and when reserves such as Kaleigh Troxell were sent in, they immediately made an impact.
Troxell made four of her first five shots, finished with nine points, and helped Tabor’s bench combine for 28 points — 10 Bluejays scored in all.
“I’ve been coaching long enough to know that doesn’t happen very often,” Reed said. “For it to happen on this stage is something very special, and I give all the credit to our players.
“We talked about staying in the moment. Don’t talk about what will happen, talk about what is happening now, and I thought they did that tonight.”
Tabor’s win might not have been surprising as it appeared on paper. The Bluejays boast the last two KCAC players of the year in Tina Lewis and Janelle Rust, who totaled 33 points Monday, and have gotten healthy after injury setbacks over the last 12 months.
“We feel like we have the talent to play with anybody, not just Southwestern,” Reed said. “We have a talented bunch. …I knew if we could hang together, we would have a pretty tough group at the end.”
Three-point baskets—Tabor 10-26 (Rust 3-7, Dean 2-3, Zuercher 2-3, Lewis 2-8, Dick 1-2, Troxell 0-3); Southwestern 6-15 (Tennyson 2-3, Cranmer 1-1, Shaffer 1-2, Je. Hobbs 1-2, Zoglmann 1-2). Rebounds—Tabor 34 (Rust 6), Southwestern 26 (Jo. Hobbs 4). Fouls—Tabor 15, Southwestern 18. Technicals—Southwestern bench. Assists—Tabor 11 (Lewis 6), Southwestern 6 (Shaffer 3).