Fast start helps Coyotes ground Bluejays 50-45

HILLSBORO – Kansas Wesleyan women’s coach Ryan Showman was mightily pleased with the way his team started the game, scoring the first 16 points, and how the Coyotes fended off Tabor’s late comeback attempt.

He was absolutely ecstatic, though, with the way his squad played defense from start to finish and paved the way to a 50-45 Kansas Conference victory Wednesday night.

It was the second win in a row for the Coyotes, raised their record to 11-9 overall, 10-7 in the conference and avenged a 59-51 loss to Tabor December 2 in Salina. It also cooled off the Bluejays, who had won four in a row and 10 their last 11.

KWU’s 2-3 zone limited Tabor to 30.5 percent shooting (18 of 59) that included 3 of 17 shooting beyond the arc. The Bluejays (14-7, 13-6 KCAC) missed their first 12 shots of the game and didn’t get their first field goal until the 53-second mark of the period.

Tabor scorched the Coyotes with mid-range shots inside their zone defense in the first game this season but had no such luck Wednesday.

“We had to take away their high-low (passing game) and that starts with taking away their high post,” Showman said on his postgame radio show. “I’ve got to credit my guards for busting their butts and working hard to take that away and force them to get their points other places.

“We knew if they got a bunch of open shots like they did the first time we played them it was going to be a long night. And I’ve got to give all the credit in the world to those women in the locker room because they played absolutely lights out defense.”

KWU led 20-7 after the first quarter, scoring the game’s first 16 on 6 of 11 shooting. But Tabor closed the deficit to nine (24-15) at halftime buoyed by eight Coyote turnovers in the second period.

An 8-0 run got Tabor within 26-23 midway through the third quarter, but the Coyotes closed the quarter with a 10-5 burst and led 36-28 entering the final 10 minutes.

A basket by LaMyah Ricks (FR/Shawnee Mission, Kan.) made it 47-36 with 3:39 left. Tabor came back with a 6-0 run to get within 47-42 with 1:29 left but Ricks sank two big free throws with 1:15 left for a 49-42 lead.

The Bluejays made one last surge as Julissa Garcia scored three points that got them within 49-45 with 16 seconds left. Caila Hill (SO/Rossville, Kan.) tacked on a free throw with 12.4 seconds left for the game’s final point as Wesleyan won its second consecutive close contest in five days.

Kelcey Hinz (JR/Whitewater, Kan.) and Gabby Mureeba (SO/Allen, Texas) scored 10 points apiece to lead the Coyotes’ balanced attack. Amanda Hill (SR/Rossville, Kan.) added nine points while Caila Hill and Ricks had eight each; KWU outscored the Bluejays 36-28 in the paint. Hinz also had six rebounds, four blocks and two assists.

“We can run with you if you want to run but we can also grind it out and we knew this would be a grinder,” Showman said. “We were mentally prepared for some of those possessions coming in.”

The Coyotes shot 41.3 percent (19 of 46) that included 1 of 12 from the 3-point line. They finished with 17 turnovers while Tabor had 12. Zoe Shieldnight led Tabor with 18 points and nine rebounds.

“We did what we had to do on the road against a really good team,” Showman said. “We know the goals we have are still intact and we knew that coming in here and winning was vital to those goals. We came in and got the job done.”

The Coyotes are back home for a game against York at 5 p.m. Saturday inside Mabee Arena. KWU will be looking for revenge after losing to the Panthers 63-62 on a basket with 2.3 seconds left December 5 in York, Neb.