Five women’s basketball seniors were ready to be honored during their final home game in the regular season.
A freshman stole the show.
Virja Lewis recorded her first double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds, the Coyotes scored the final 12 points of the game and Kansas Wesleyan held on to beat Tabor a third consecutive time 61-54 at Mabee Arena Wednesday. It’s the first regular-season sweep of the Bluejays since 2011-2012.
After trading buckets with Tabor, KWU closed out the opening frame with a three from junior Sydney Mortensen, capping off the first quarter with an 11-3 run. Wesleyan (15-14, 12-9) increased its advantage to 26-15 in the ensuing quarter before Tabor bounced back to make it a 30-25 KWU lead at the half.
The Bluejays (14-13, 11-10) drew to within four in the third, but the Coyotes answered by pushing the margin back out to seven, 44-37 through three quarters.
Tabor grabbed its first lead since 8-7 in the first quarter when the Bluejays drilled three triples, the last by junior Taylor Deniston to start the fourth period. Junior Morgan Ediger ballooned the Tabor advantage to 54-49 with 2:31 left with a trey.
Kansas Wesleyan’s defense locked up Tabor from there, forcing the Bluejays to go 0-for-9 from the floor the rest of the way. Lewis put the Coyotes ahead with a bucket with 49 seconds remaining. Sophomore Courtney Heinen had two of her 10 points at the free throw line to extend the margin to three, sealing the victory for the Coyotes.
Lewis ended up being the Salina Ortho Player of the Game, joining Heinen in double figures. Junior Gabbie Miller recorded 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Wesleyan sits in a tie for fifth in the KCAC with one game left. KWU travels to Oklahoma Wesleyan on Saturday.
KANSAS WESLEYAN 80, TABOR 75
Wesleyan (16-11, 14-7) started the game relying on the power of senior Raul Neri. The El Paso, Texas native poured in eight of the Coyotes’ first 11 points as they built an 11-5 cushion. Tabor responded with five straight points, followed by a 7-0 spurt to put the Bluejays ahead 17-13. Tabor senior Julian Winton tried to create separation, scoring 20 of his game-high 33 points in the first half. Despite nailing a three in the waning seconds of the half, Wesleyan was only behind 40-34 at the half.
The Bluejays (13-14, 12-9) threatened to blow out the Coyotes with a 12-3 start to the second half, increasing the advantage to 52-37 with 15:32 left in the game. KWU bounced back with an 8-0 spurt, but the Bluejays had the answer by bringing the lead back to double figures, 59-47 with 11 minutes to go.
Kansas Wesleyan finally broke through the brick wall after trailing 63-53. Sophomore Nate Leach had a bucket and a pair of free throws to trim the deficit to one with 6:38 to play. Senior Terell Gandy put the Coyotes ahead with one of his five field goals in the second half and freshman Darius Hammond added a triple to complete the 14-0 run, giving Wesleyan a 67-63 advantage with 6:02 remaining.
The Bluejays didn’t go away, eventually knotting up the score at 73-all with 1:02 to go. Gandy had the go-ahead bucket and later went one-of-two at the free throw line to make it a 76-73 ballgame. Tabor cut the deficit to one with 13.8 seconds left, but Hammond went to free throw line to connect on both freebies with 11.2 seconds to go.
Hammond had seven of 50 points recorded by the Wesleyan bench. Leach earned the Salina Ortho Player of the Game as he scored a career-high 16 points, including 12-of-15 at the foul line. Junior Ithello Cross chipped in 10 points. Gandy finished with 11 while Neri had 14 on senior night.
Kansas Wesleyan snapped a seven-game losing streak to Tabor and won its final home game of the regular season since 2010. The Coyotes also finished with a 10-1 home record against KCAC foes. The Coyotes battle Oklahoma Wesleyan on the road with second place on the line.