It’s clear that the defending KCAC tournament champions are on a mission, as Tabor shot their way past Bethany for a 70-60 win in Lindsborg Wednesday night. The quarterfinal victory was the first step to potentially securing a third straight postseason title, and a fifth straight trip to the NAIA tournament.
The 7-seeded Bluejays built a six point lead, 13-7, late in the first quarter after Taylor Deniston soaked a three-pointer. Bethany’s Sarah Bartell answered in the closing seconds to trim the deficit to three, 13-10 after one.
It was a tug of war in the second session, with four ties and two lead changes. The two teams combined for 15 turnovers in the first half, and Tabor led 28-25 at intermission.
After being held scoreless in the first half, Tabor turned to their star guard Morgan Ediger in the final two sessions. The all-league talent broke her wrist in the first meeting on December 9, and didn’t return until February 7. Wednesday was her fifth game back from the extended time off. Ediger went on to score 15 points in the final half, and nailed a key triple with 7:47 left in the fourth quarter to give Tabor a 54-45 advantage.
Another Ediger dead-eye with 5:38 remaining gave Tabor their largest lead, 59-47. Bethany’s Marissa Pope trimmed the cushion to nine, 65-56 with 1:59 to play, but Ediger countered with another jumper to push it back to double figures.
Bethany out-rebounded Tabor 39-23, and had 18 offensive rebounds. Bethany finished with 14 second chance points, and held Tabor to only three offensive boards. The Swedes were led by Lauren Welsch, who finished with 21 points and 8 rebounds.
As the two seed in the KCAC tournament, Bethany is still alive for an at-large berth to the NAIA tournament. The Swedes need the 1-seed Friends Falcons to win the KCAC tournament championship at Hartman Arena in Park City on Monday. The Falcons won their quarterfinal match-up, 66-62 vs. McPherson and hosts the 4-seed Saint Mary Saturday afternoon.
Bethany has a record of 18-12 overall, and 14-8 in the KCAC. Coach Keith Ferguson was named the KCAC Coach of the Year on Tuesday, while Sydney Ahaneku was named the KCAC Defensive Player of the Year, and Welsch was awarded as the KCAC Newcomer of the Year. Pope was also honored as 3rd team all-KCAC, while Welsch made 2nd team, and Ahaneku made honorable mention.