Story: Tyler Schuster
Photos: Jacilyn Bruns
Video: Joe Brown
In the first game of day two at the NAIA DII Women’s National Basketball Tournament, the red hot No. 3 seed Tabor College (26-7) met No. 6 seed Hastings College (19-11) in a battle of conflicting styles and pedigree of tournament success. Hastings previously defeated Tabor by three on 11/14, but today, Tabor outscored the Broncos 43-22 in the second half to hand the Broncos their sixth loss in their last eight games, by a score of 68-44.
“I thought we had some open shots that we missed and that if you knock those down you feel a lot better about yourself,” Hastings College Head Coach Jina Johansen said. “We turned it over a lot, when we normally don’t turn it over a ton, and we didn’t have any inside presence at all.”
Jurnee Reid lead the BlueJays with 14 points on 4 of 7 shooting, while Mallory Zuercher and Tena Loewen added 11 points and nine points and 12 rebounds of their own. Thompson finished with a game-high 17 points on 7 of 15 shooting and was the only Bronco to score in double figures.
“I thought Mallory Zuerker played really well, I think she was in double figures and I Tina Loewen played exceptionally well on the defensive end,” Tabor Head Coach Shawn Reed said. “Jurnee Reid played well and we got a couple buckets from a few more players. It wa a good team effort.”
Entering the tournament, the BlueJays had relied on a balanced offensive attack and have zero players that average double-figure scoring, but have six different players that have over 190 points on the season. Historically, Tabor has had minimal success in the tournament, amassing a 5-6 record in seven appearances, but in 2015, the BlueJays were the “Cinderella” team of the tournament, advancing to the quarterfinals before falling to Briar Cliff 62-53.
In 2016, Hastings has relied on key contributions from senior Teeka Thompson, Rachel Jelden and Holly Hild, who all average double-figure scoring numbers. The Broncos also boast an impressive 36-12 record in 16 tournament appearances and just last season, advanced to the semifinals before losing to eventual national champion Morningside College (Iowa).
Both teams had to overcome sloppy play and turnovers early in the game, but stuck to their normal style of play early on. Hastings relied on Thompson to carry the offensive burden, as she tallied 10 points at the half. Reid led Tabor with 6 points at halftime on 1 of 3 shooting, but Tabor, much like they have all season, received offensive contributions from several players. The BlueJays had eight different players score in the first half.
That offensive versatility proved vital in the BlueJays’ victory.
“We’ve built this team for this tournament, because if you’re going to win five games in seven days you better be deep. We’ve done that with that in mind and I think that we’re blessed to have that many people who can score and play,” Reed said. “It’s been a real good thing for us this year and hopefully it will help in the tournament.”
Both teams shot 33.33% from the field in the first, but the difference came in the form of the foul differential and foul trouble. Tabor committed just three first-half, team fouls, while Hastings tallied 11 and had four players in foul trouble in the first half.
Thompson shot the ball well early, scoring four quick points to tie the game at the 6:10 mark. Tabor’s Amber Bonham went coast-to-coast and finished a three-point play to put the BlueJays up three with just over two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Thompson and Hild scored back to baskets to put HC up 14-13 early in the second quarter. Johnson knocked down a three-pointer at the top of the key to put the Broncos up one, but Taylor Deniston responded with a bucket to put the BlueJays up one. Kaleigh Troxell knocked down a late three-pointer and Tabor led 25-22 at halftime.
Tabor took full control of the game during the fourth quarter and outscored the Broncos 43-22 in the second half. Mallory Zuercher knocked down a couple of baskets, before Deniston got her own rebound and scored to put the BlueJays up 11 in the third quarter. After a Hild three-pointer, Thompson nabbed a steal and scored to put the Broncos within seven heading into the fourth quarter.
Zuercher, Reid and Loewen opened the fourth quarter with baskets and the rout was on. Ediger knocked down a three-pointer, before Morton snagged a rebound and finished a layup to cut the lead to 17 midway through the quarter. But it was too little too late for Hastings.
Johansen voiced her disappointment with the way her team handled the end of the game saying, “I felt like we gave up a little bit,” she said. “We knew we were beat at that point and I thought we rolled over, so that was disappointing to see.”
Reid lead the BlueJays with 14 points on 4 of 7 shooting, while Zuercher and Loewen added 11 points and nine points and 12 rebounds of their own. Thompson finished with a game-high 17 points on 7 of 15 shooting and was the only Bronco to score in double figures.
With the win, Tabor is now 22-1 in their last 23 games and will move on to face the winner of Asbury (Ky.) vs. Saint Francis (Ill.) on Friday at 3:30 p.m.