The McPherson College women's basketball team made a statement on Saturday evening, defeating the Tabor College Bluejays 51-49, and they did so with their defense.
The Bulldogs had an tough time shooting the ball, shooting just 27 percent from the floor and making only three 3-pointers, all in the first half, but their defense was stellar. They employed a full court press, with varying looks, for most of the game and forced the Bluejays into 24 turnovers. They held the defending KCAC champs to just 29 percent shooting from the field, and 21 percent from deep, which is normally where they do the most damage.
It was a back-and-forth game from the start. The Bluejays led 12-7 after the first quarter, but then the Bulldogs responded by winning the second 13-4 and took a 20-16 lead into the halftime intermission. Tabor then came out of the break and won the third quarter 15-12 to get to within one of the Bulldogs, 32-31, heading into the final ten minutes of play.
In the final period there were five ties, and the lead changed hands three times. The final minute of the game held a lot of suspense. The Bulldogs led by two with 1:04 on the clock. Tabor was at the free throw line with a chance to tie. They split the two free throws, and the Bulldogs grabbed the rebound. Mac could hold the ball and wait for Tabor to foul, but instead threw the ball away setting up the Bluejays for a chance to win.
On the next possession, Tabor scored a layup to retake the lead with 12 seconds on the clock. The Bulldogs called timeout and advanced the ball to half court. Maison Mosely took the inbounds pass and dribbled into the lane and was fouled and went to the line to shoot a pair of free throws. She made the first but missed the second. Tabor got the rebound and called timeout with five seconds left.
They advanced the ball to half court and drew up a play. They inbounded the ball into the paint, but on the ensuing shot, Elle Gillen came up with a huge block. The ball went out of bounds to Tabor. They inbounded the ball again, but their second attempt rimmed out and the game headed into overtime.
In the overtime session, there were two more ties and two lead changes. The Bulldogs led by as many as three points and the Bluejays by two. The game was tied at 48 with 48 seconds remaining. The Bluejays went 1 for 2 again from the free throw line and took a 49-48 lead. The Bulldogs called timeout on the made free throw and advanced again to half court. Moseley got the ball again and passed to Haley Hurst, who found Kyrstin Branscum cutting to the basket on the baseline. Branscum spun around and hit an eight footer with 12 seconds on the clock to put the Bulldogs up one, 50-49.
On the next possession, the Bluejays had two looks at the basket, but missed on both of them. The Bulldogs got the rebound on the second miss and called time out, advancing the ball to half court. Moseley received the inbounds pass and was fouled with 9/10th of a second on the clock. She missed the first but made the second to put the Bulldogs up two. As the Bluejays inbounded the ball, the clock hit zero without them getting a shot off, and the Bulldogs escaped with the upset victory.
The defensive effort was impressive, but equally impressive was the fact that the Bulldogs went into overtime without two of their best players, Brittany Roberts and Danielle Holt, who had both fouled out late in the fourth quarter. The rest of the Bulldogs were forced to step up, and they did.
Points were hard to come by in this one, and just one Bulldog finished in double figures in scoring. Elle Gillen was 2 of 4 from the field including 1 for 3 from three-point land, but she hit 8 of 9 free throws to finish with 13 points.
"It was an ugly offensive performance, but our half court defense saved us tonight," Josh Nichols said. "Tabor does an excellent job running their offense and we did an excellent job defending them." He lauded the play of Holt saying, "Dani especially played great defense holding a Rice to 0 points. While Brittany did have her best game offensively others stepped up and hit big shot. Kyrstin with the go ahead bucket was huge. Proud of this group."
The win puts the Bulldogs at 5-3 overall, and evens up their conference record at 1-1. Next up is a trip to Wichita, Kansas on Wednesday for a showdown with the Friends University Falcons. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.