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Trojan women advance to final eight of NAIA tourney

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

Taylor University continued to get big-time production from Kendall Bradbury, Abby and Becca Buchs on Friday and the Trojans rode the trio’s play into the women’s basketball NAIA Division II National Tournament Round of Eight.

The three combined for 65 points and the second-seeded Trojans held off pesky sixth-seeded Corban (Oregon) 76-68 in the quarterfinal matchup at the Tyson Events Center, Sioux City, Iowa. The Trojans are among the last eight standing for just the second time in program history.

“Abby played great for us ... and Kendall had (27) and we did a good job of relaxing in the second half,” Taylor coach Jody Martinez said. “I thought our ball movement was better and I felt like we were in better shape in the second half and we had our legs the whole half.”

Taylor (30-4) now plays No. 1 seed Dakota Wesleyan (29-5), the reigning DII national champions, at 6 p.m. today with a final four berth on the line.

Bradbury, the 5-foot-11 center from Highlands Ranch, Colorado, built on her national player of the year credentials with a 27-point performance. She had scored 32 Thursday in the Trojans’ 85-48 opening round victory over Bellevue (Nebraska).

The Buchs twins from Angola also had a big role in the Trojans’ 22nd consecutive victory. Abby Buchs had 23 points which featured three 3-pointers and 10-of-11 firing from the free throw line, while Becca Buchs contributed 15 and also knocked down three treys and was a perfect 6-of-6 at the foul line.

Corban had knocked out third-seeded Tabor (Kansas) 56-54 in the opening round and never let the Trojans out of its sights. Indeed, the Warriors threw an early haymaker when Treasure Farmer hit back-to-back 3-pointers to open the game for a 6-0 lead.

Taylor would eventually catch Corban at 8-all and took its first lead when Bradbury hit three consecutive free throws after she was fouled on a 3-point attempt. After two more ties and three lead changes, the Trojans went ahead 18-17 at the quarter break.

A 5-0 run to start the second quarter put the Trojans ahead 23-17 and they continued to nurse their advantage until the final seconds of the opening half. Corban made a late run and took a 29-28 lead into halftime on another 3-pointer from Farmer.

“I felt good we held them to 29,” Martinez said. “Free throws kept us in it and Abby Buchs had some big shots. Overall, when get to the national tournament, you wish you can stay composed but it doesn’t always happen that way.”

The Trojans had shot 35 percent from the floor in the opening half and Bradbury had 10 points, none in the second quarter. But the Trojans and Bradbury found their shooting eye to start the second half.

Fueled by Abby Buchs, the Trojans went on a 13-4 run to begin the third quarter for a 41-33 lead. A Bradbury basket made it 54-39 in the final 39 seconds of the quarter for the Trojans’ largest lead.

Corban had been outscored 26-10 in the third quarter, but the Warriors would make a sustained run over the final 10 minutes and would make it uncomfortable for the Trojans down the stretch. Emily Yost’s basket with 1:10 to play pulled the Warriors to within 67-62 and then Farmer made a steal and the chance to pull within one possession.

But Taylor’s Jamie Netzley stole the ball back and the Trojans would close out the Warriors from the foul line.

Taylor excelled from the foul line and finished 29-of-32 for 91 percent. Corban missed just one free throw but had many fewer chances, connecting on 10-of-11 at the line.

Jordan Woodvine led Corban, which finished 25-10, with 20 points and followed by Farmer with 15 and Yost with 12.

Taylor played Dakota Wesleyan in the 2017-18 season in Arizona and won 66-61 on a neutral court. Dakota Wesleyan would later win the national title.

“Last year we beat them on a neutral floor and they went on to win the national tournament, so our returnees feel confident going into the game and hopefully it will be exciting,” Martinez said.