HILLSBORO – Kansas Wesleyan’s sensational fourth quarter wasn’t enough to overcome an exasperating second quarter.
The Coyotes rallied from a 15-point, third-quarter deficit in the final period but fell a point short in a 54-53 Kansas Conference loss to Tabor on Wednesday.
The loss dropped them to 4-3 overall, 0-2 in the KCAC, while Tabor improved to 3-4 and 2-1.
KWU outscored the Bluejays 24-14 the final 10 minutes, getting within 51-50 in the waning seconds and again on Courtney Heinen (SR/Axtell, Kan.) 3-point basket at the buzzer.
The frantic comeback wasn’t enough, though, to erase a difficult second quarter that saw Tabor outscore them 14-4 en route to a 27-15 halftime lead. The Coyotes were scoreless the final 6:30 and missed their last 10 shots. Heinen’s 3-pointer 36 seconds into the quarter their lone field goal.
“We were getting one shot per possession and a lot of them were good shots, we just didn’t make enough,” Coach Ryan Showman said. “We didn’t finish shots that we finished all season.
“That’s the thing with Tabor, they’re going to give you one look and you better make it because you’re not going to get many more. We had too many empty possessions that second quarter.”
The Bluejays extended their lead to 42-29 entering the fourth quarter but it was a different KWU team down the stretch.
The Coyotes scored on their first four possessions and used a 13-4 run to get within 46-42 with 5:25 left. Trailing 51-46 in the final minute Amanda Hill (JR/Rossville, Kan.) scored for KWU with 57.4 seconds remaing. After a Tabor miss, Haleigh Bradford (SR/Schertz, Texas)’s layup with 16.0 seconds left made it a one-point game, 51-50.
Showman said there was 3-point option available, but didn’t fault Bradford for shooting a layup.
“Late in the game we got the ball in our senior point guard’s hands and there’s not a lot of people I’d rather have the ball in their hands in that situation,” he said.
Ashtyn Wiebe made two free throws with 7.6 seconds left, extending Tabor’s lead to 54-50. Heinen’s 3-pointer as time expired capped the scoring.
After shooting 25 percent from the field the first half (6 of 24) the Coyotes shot 53.1 percent the second half (17 of 32) but were out-rebounded 36-22 for the game.
Showman was pleased with his team’s resilience and determination in the second half.
“The effort, the intensity, the energy …,” he said. “I thought we sped them up and they don’t want to play that way. We were able to get some things in transition by just getting up and down the floor. I liked how we fought.”
Showman implemented a fullcourt press to help get his team moving.
“Anytime you can get a turnover and convert it into a basket or two, cut that lead down into single digits, all of a sudden their end gets a lot farther away when we’re pressing,” he said. “We gave ourselves plenty of chances in the fourth quarter.”
Heinen led the Coyotes with 21 points and five rebounds while Kelcey Hinz (SO/Whitewater, Kan.) had 11 points and Hill nine – Hinz and Hall combining for 19 points the second half. Zoe Shieldnight paced Tabor with 18 points on 9 of 10 shooting while Kasey Rice had 11 points.
“We can’t let anyone go 9 for 10,” Showman said of Shieldnight. “I thought we let her establish position too much. They made some baskets at the buzzer, they banked some shots in – I think at least one a quarter – and things like that tend to go a long way in a close game.”
The Coyotes travel to Wichita to play Friends on Saturday, starting a 5 p.m., in their next game.