The Lady Braves are set to take off.
On the heels of its biggest win of the season, the Ottawa University women’s basketball team wants to start a streak that could turn its season around. OU upset No. 17 Tabor College 59-56 at home Saturday, marking the team’s first win over a NAIA Top 20 team since a 2014 victory over No. 19 Friends University. It was also the team’s first win over Tabor in the last six times the two teams have played each other.
“I think it is good for the younger players because, with our record, we’ve really just been trying to work towards that win,” Jenna Kramer, sophomore guard, said after Saturday’s win. “We told them this is starting a streak, we are going off now. We’ve got some tough games coming up, but if we play the way we play, this is going to boost everyone’s confidence.”
Ottawa has three straight home games next up, the next two against ranked teams. It plays No. 21 Friends University 6 p.m. Wednesday in OU’s Wilson Field House.
Friends (10-7, 8-2 Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference) snapped a three-game losing streak Saturday with a 82-68 home win over Southwestern College in Wichita. With Tabor’s loss, the Lady Falcons are now tied with the Lady Blue Jays for the top spot in the KCAC standings.
Despite a rough start to the season, OU’s win over Tabor proves the team can play with the top teams in the conference.
In a game that featured 13 ties and 11 lead changes, Ottawa played its best ball as time winded down. A 9-1 run during a four-minute period in the fourth quarter gave the Lady Braves a 55-48 lead, the biggest lead of the game by either team. During that span, Tabor missed six consecutive field goals, while a pair of baskets by Jessica King, senior forward, and shots from Katlyn Hughes, sophomore guard, and Jaiden Offutt, freshman guard, helped OU surge ahead.
But the Lady Blue Jays kept within striking distance thanks to timely baskets. Following a three-point play on a basket and foul by King with 17 seconds left that put OU up 59-53, Tabor’s Amber Bonham knocked down a shot beyond the arc with 12 seconds left to keep her team alive.
A five-second inbound violation on Ottawa on the ensuing possession gave Tabor the ball right back, but three-point misses by Bonham and Sammy Jo Peterson sealed the upset.
“I’m proud of how we competed and just chipped away at it,” Bruce Tate, OU head women’s basketball coach, said. “We’ve always given ourselves an opportunity to win these games, but those three or four-point losses really take a tear at you. I’m glad we responded here at home.”
Ottawa played its best ball in the final 10 minutes, going 8-15 from the floor compared to Tabor’s 5-14. The team was especially strong defensively, forcing 14 turnovers and keeping Tabor under 40 percent shooting (19-49, 38.8 percent).
“Katlyn [Hughes] did a really good job on [Taylor Deniston, Tabor guard],” Kesley Hendricks, OU sophomore guard, said. “That was our lock-down defender. Our posts just did a good job of communicating to us to get over screens.”
Deniston led Tabor with 21 points and eight rebounds.
Nearly half of Ottawa’s offensive putout came from King, who had a double-double scoring 28 points and snagging 12 boards. She finished 12-18 shooting from the field.
Ottawa (59) — King 28, Hughes 8, Kramer 6, Hendricks 5, McAvoy 4, Speer 3, Offutt 3, Anthony 2.
Tabor (56) — Deniston 21, Bonham 16, Peterson 10, Leiszler 5, Wedel 4.