PARK CITY — Friends women’s basketball has multiple ways to win – not all of them covered by star guard Shann Sellers.
When the non-Sellers factors don’t materialize, Friends is at its most vulnerable. That’s a rarity – Friends lost a single game, by one point, between New Year’s Eve and Monday night.
Sellers had 32 points and 10 steals in Monday’s KCAC postseason tournament championship game, but Tabor neutralized the Falcons’ Plans B through D in a 74-70 win at Hartman Arena.
No. 20 Tabor (26-6) earned an automatic bid to March’s NAIA Division II tournament. No. 11 Friends (26-6) claimed a spot by winning the KCAC regular-season title.
“At some point, Sellers is going to get her buckets,” Tabor coach Shawn Reed said. “She’s so athletic, probably 10 or 15 of her 32 are going to come off steals. …You know she’s going to get her points, but we tried to stop some other people. That was a little bit of the game plan.”
Sellers played all 40 minutes and affected large portions of the game, including, almost, the end. Her steal and two free throws with 1:50 to go put Friends ahead 67-66, but it was the Falcons’ last lead.
Tabor scored the final five points in a stretch notable for Friends’ lack of other options. Lexi Evans, who set Friends’ single-season three-point record, made one three and didn’t score in the final 25 minutes.
Yowanna Posey scored 12 points, but her last basket came with 4:12 to go in the first half. Makenzie Vining, whose shooting was key in Friends’ semifinal win over Kansas Wesleyan, missed 7 of 9 shots.
“(Sellers) is obviously going to get her points,” Tabor guard Morgan Ediger said. “But if we run their shooters off the line and defend without fouling, we believe that we can do it.”
Tabor found the late-game balance that Friends lacked. Friends’ win over Kansas Wesleyan on Saturday was the Falcons’ second single-digit victory since Dec. 16, but Tabor has been in several close games, winning eight by seven points or fewer.
That showed particularly in the Bluejays’ free throw shooting. They made 23 of 24, and Tena Loewen and Ediger were 10 for 10 in the fourth quarter. Friends beat Tabor twice during the season by 17 combined points.
“We’ve played a bunch of close games, especially in January when we really weren’t playing that good,” Reed said. “This team kind of thrives on that, which I don’t understand, it drives me nuts. They play best when their backs are against the wall. They don’t panic. They kind of live on those moments.
“It’s giving me gray hairs and ulcers, but they’re doing a great job. Every coach would want that.”
While Friends was looking for a second difference-maker, Tabor had several.
Loewen, Ediger and Kaleigh Troxell each scored 17 points, but their late-game calmness was keyed in part by points from Jurnee Reid and Taylor Deniston, who combined to make 1 of 7 shots but made four free throws in the fourth.
“This is just surreal right now,” Ediger said. “We worked all year for championships, that’s all we want. To lose twice to them and then finally get our victory here, it’s sweet.”