AJ Range wanted to bolster his role in Saturday night’s game against Tabor.
With perimeter shots not falling, Kansas Wesleyan instead looked inside Range and it paid off with a 71-59 win over the Bluejays at Mabee Arena.
After trailing by six points early on, Wesleyan came back to take the lead definitively, 24-23, on a Range free throw with 4:43 left in the first half. Range scored his 20 first-half points, including the last seven of the period, to give the Coyotes a 35-26 lead at the break.
“I was getting my positions and pretty much getting the ball in the right position,” Range said. “I was making my lay-ups (and) getting to the free-throw line. Even though I haven’t finished most of them, I’m getting there.”
“One of our goals from the start was to match their physique.”
The win was the third straight for Wesleyan, who improved to 17-7 overall and 12-7 in the Kansas Conference. Tabor fell to 6-15, 4-14.
KWU coach Anthony Monson said that while Range struggled to finish his shots, he got to his spots early.
“Right off the bat he missed a couple (shots) and then once he got those three it loosened him up a bit,” Monson said. “The second half was more about guarding. We have to find a better balance.”
After Range’s great first half, Jun Murdock took over in the second, scoring 12 of 15 after intermission as the Coyotes held their lead until the end.
“It seemed like that was all we got on offense,” Monson said. “We need to get more guys involved and keep them involved in the game because if we don’t you will need them at some point.”
The Coyotes have a tough road ahead with five conference games to go after going 1-4 against their remaining opponents the first time around.
“We have to go back to playing like we have a chip on our shoulders,” Range said. “We have five games left now and every game counts. We just need to go 1-0 every day.
“We just have to do our job and win.”
Monson said the Coyotes need Range to play a key role down the stretch.
“He and Jun have to lead us,” Monson said. “Jun is the outside presence, AJ is the inside presence. When those two are at their best, we’re at our best. We put a lot on these guys, but they’re able to handle it.
“We have a lot of confidence. They will take us far enough.”
Montel Stewart led Tabor with 12 points.
McPherson’s Kassidy Beam helps Tabor women get off to a quick start
Kassidy Beam helped the women of Tabor get off to a quick start when they needed it.
The former McPherson High School standout continued against KWU by scoring eight of Tabor’s first 10 points on the way to a 22-point performance in a 70-67 overtime win over the Coyotes.
KWU fell to 16-8, 12-7 in the league, while Tabor improved to 17-6, 14-4.
In addition to Beam, fellow freshman Teegan Werth made four 3-pointers in the first quarter, helping the Bluejays take a 27-15 lead in the second.
“We just kind of read what they were giving us,” Beam said. “I felt like as a team we didn’t give up and they were always looking to find what was open and shooting what they gave us.”
Tabor’s trainer Shawn Reed said Beam comes out and has energy right away. After Beam’s junior year at McPherson High, Reed knew he wanted her to be Bluejay.
“She’s a big bucket and she’s played in some huge games,” Reed said. “That’s why we worked hard to sign her, because she comes in the big moments for us.
“We want local players as much as possible.”
Wesleyan trailed to 14 points but managed to tie the game at 60 with 17.6 seconds left in regulation on two free throws from Catherine Bowman to force overtime.
“We gave ourselves a lot of chances to win the game and we didn’t take advantage of them,” KWU coach Ryan Showman said. “I felt like the fourth (quarter) was when we finally got (the save, the score, the save we were looking for.
“I think we missed some opportunities in the first half by just having the ball returned to us. We have to be better there.”
KWU took a 64-63 lead on a Kelcey Hinz field goal with 1:47 left in overtime, but Tabor got a 3-pointer from Beam at 1:15 to reclaim the lead for good.
Beam also knocked down two free throws with 15 seconds left to extend the lead to three.
“It was huge,” Beam said of the free throws. “I just needed to take my time, knock them down, because I knew I could do it. It was good. It was a relief.”
Wesleyan had the ball with 7.9 seconds left, trailing by three, but Lamyah Ricks’ 3-pointer was off the mark.
Hinz led the Coyotes with a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds.
What’s next for Kansas Wesleyan
After a three-game week, the Wesleyans will only have a doubleheader on Wednesday night as they travel to Leavenworth to take on Saint Mary. The women’s game is scheduled for 6 p.m. and the men will follow at 8 p.m.
Both Coyote teams will enter the season sweeps after beating the Spiers on Dec. 8. The women won the first game, 76-59, while the Coyote men won, 75-71.
Dylan Sherwood has been a sportswriter for the Salina Journal since August 2019. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @DSherwoodSJ