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|Jordan Funk jump-stops in the lane to draw contact from Bret Wilson. Funk scored 12 points.|
The twin non-conference tests gave the Bluejays and their home crowd a preview of conference opponent Sterling, who defeated Savannah 55-49 Saturday and topped Missouri Baptist 85-75 the day before.
The Bluejays lost to East Central University, 90-53, in an exhibition game at Ada, Okla., Dec. 29.
Missouri Baptist—Tabor led by as much as 18-9 and trailed by as many as four points during a first half that saw each team string together scoring runs.
Tabor fell behind 3-0, but bounced back with a 10-2 run, and pushed the lead to nine on a three-point play by Mike Stoecker at 14:18.
But at 11:58, Zach Vanselow went to the bench with his third foul and the Spartans whittled away the Tabor lead with a 12-6 spurt. Having tied the game at the 7:09 mark, Missouri Baptist pushed its advantage to 34-30 with an 8-4 run.
Tabor unleashed a 5-0 run to retake the lead with 3:00 left in the half. Brandon Bishop immediately put the visitors back on top with a 3-pointer, but Tabor scored on field goals by Orson Thomas and Stoecker in the final 40 seconds to even the score at 39-39 at halftime.
The second half tilted toward Missouri Baptist at the outset, as Bret Wilson drained two 3-pointers in the first 1:48.
Stoecker scored a jumper in between, and Whitelaw nailed a key shot, scoring a 3-pointer 15 seconds after Wilson’s second, slashing the Bluejays’ deficit to 45-44.
Five ties and seven lead changes ensued. Jordan Funk turned a 49-48 deficit into a 50-49 lead at 11:19. Spartans’ guard Dane Rawlins scored six of the visitors eight points during the next 1:59, sinking four foul shots and a 2-pointer, the last of which made the margin 57-54 in Missouri Baptist’s favor.
Whitelaw threw in a three-point play to knot the game at 57, then picked up an assist setting up a Mike Rousell jumper. Whitelaw put the Bluejays on top for good with a foul shot with 7:39 to go.
Kyle de Blonk pushed the lead to 63-59 with a 3-pointer 11 seconds later. De Blonk drilled another key shot to set the stage for the final stretch. With 3:21 to go, he caught up with a long rebound following his own miss and nailed a 3-pointer for a 69-63 lead.
Whitelaw took it from there, notching six free throws in the final 2:28 to hold off the Spartans.
Wilson led the Spartans with 20 points. Rawlins scored 15 points and pulled down 15 rebounds and Bishop scored 10 points before fouling out.
Whitelaw led all scorers with 22 points, followed by Thomas, Funk and Rousell with 12 each, and Stoecker 11.
Savannah—Former Michigan standout Cazzie Russell helped hand the Bluejays their eighth loss of the season, but senior forward Kevin Polit’s 14 second-half points made an impact that the 1972 NBA all-star, now coaching the Bees, no longer makes. Polit, a 6-foot-6 senior center, led all scorers with 22 points.
After Tabor went up 4-0 out of the gate, the Bees used a 7-0 run to hijack the lead. The Bluejays countered with a 7-0 run, and built leads of 21-13 and 38-29 during the first half.
Between those peaks, Savannah used a 10-2 run to tie the game at 23. The period ended on a 3-pointer by Savannah guard Chas Johnson, and Tabor carried a 38-32 lead into the second half.
Savannah rattled off an 8-2 run out of the gate, knotting the game at 40-40 and then 42-42 before taking the lead on a field goal by Polit.
The Bees outscored Tabor 7-1 during the subsequent 1:13 and eventually stretched the lead to 65-55 with 3:33 remaining.
Kyle de Blonk capped a 6-0 run with a layup sparked by an Aaron Whitelaw steal. De Blonk also knocked down a 2-pointer with 1:03 to go and a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left.
Each shot cut the gap to four points, but the Bees answered with enough free throws to keep the Bluejays at arm’s length.
Tabor made only one of 10 3-point shots in the second half in contrast to the point-blank pounding Savannah meted out in the paint. The Bees scored 35 of 44 second-half points either in the lane or at the foul line.
Following Polit’s lead, the Bees’ Eze Andrews scored 16 points and Johnson added 11.
Tabor had four scorers reach double figures: Whitelaw tallied 18 points, followed by Thomas with 14, de Blonk with 13 and Mike Rousell with 11.
Coming—Tabor (5-8) resumes conference play with an 8 p.m. visit to Ottawa (9-4) on Thursday and a 7 p.m. trip to Southwestern (7-6) on Saturday.