After letting a 13-point lead slip away in the last six minutes of Saturday’s contest at Ottawa, the Bluejays prevailed in overtime, 77-75.
The win improved Tabor’s record in the KCAC to 10-4 and the season record to 11-12.
“I thought effort was really good on the road,” coach Micah Ratzlaff said. “I thought we showed up, we wanted to play.”
Tabor’s Nick Sauer scored the first five points of the game, but the game remained close. Three three-pointers in less than two minutes helped Ottawa to a 28-24 lead 3:00 left in the half.
Marc Hopkinson answered with a three-point basket, but Ottawa scored the final bucket for a 29-27 Brave advantage at the break.
“Both teams guarded hard in the first half—kind of messy, but a decent pace,” Ratzlaff said. “The first half was quick––it wasn’t like a whole lot of stoppage.”
Sauer opened the second half with a basket that tied the game at 29, but Tabor turnovers contributed to four straight points for the Braves.
Robbie Samuel answered with a basket at 17:29, and Ryan Chippeaux tied the game at 33 half a minute later.
The game was tied twice in the next two minutes, but Chance LeBlanc hit two three-point baskets in a minute’s time, and Samuel added two scores as Tabor built a 47-41 lead at the 12:22 mark.
Tabor enjoyed a 57-47 advantage after a three-point basket by JT Nemit, then surged to its largest lead of the night, 60-47, on a Hopkinson three-pointer.
But three-point shooting kept the Braves in the hunt. An 8-0 surge narrowed the gap to 60-55 with 3:50 left to play.
“Our whole goal was to not let (Ottawa’s) Chase Dippel get loose, and we did a great job all game long,” Ratzlaff said. “They did a great job cutting off screens at the end and setting screens, and (Dippel) got loose a couple times and drilled it.”
Dippel scored a game-high 23 points for the Braves, hitting five of 10 from behind the arc.
Samuel scored Tabor’s next four points for a 64-57 Tabor lead at 2:46, but a three-point Brave basket with 53 seconds left narrowed Tabor’s lead to 64-62.
The Braves later missed a three-point shot, but tied the game at 64 in the final three seconds to send the game into overtime.
Ottawa built a 68-64 lead in the opening minute of overtime. Sauer sank a three-pointer at 3:22, but Dippel answered with one for a 71-67 lead with 3:03 left.
Sauer again drained a three to narrow the lead to 71-70 at the 2:20 mark. Following a Brave turnover, Rust hit a three-pointer for a 73-71 Tabor lead with 1:36 left to play.
Rust increased Tabor’s lead to 75-72 with a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left, but the Braves drained a three-pointer to tie the game with 10 seconds left.
Just when it appeared the game was headed for double overtime, Nemit drove the length of the court and scored with three seconds left to give Tabor the 77-75 victory.
“Great win for our guys,” Ratzlaff said. “It’s a tough place to play, so we’ll take it.”
Samuel led Tabor with 15 points, followed by Sauer and Nemit with 13 each.
Bethel––It took Tabor time to get rolling Thursday, but the Bluejays took care of business down the stretch for a 74-63 home victory over Bethel.
The Bluejays fell behind early but took a 3-2 lead on a Nick Sauer basket behind the arc two minutes into the game.
The game remained close until Tabor’s Michael Janzen scored five consecutive points, fueling a 9-0 run by the Bluejays and a 37-21 lead at the break.
“To start the game, we really tried to score off of one pass, one or two passes,” coach Micah Ratzlaff said. “I laid into them pretty good at a timeout and said, ‘Take your time, I don’t know why the heck you guys are rushing things. You’re getting decent shots, but you can get great shots if you pass the ball two or three more times.’
“When we started doing that, we got easy, easy buckets.”
Tabor built a 20-point lead in the first five minutes of the second half and took its largest lead of the night, 52-29, on a Reggie Butler basket with 10:42 to go.
The Threshers rallied, sinking four of eight shots from behind the arc to draw within 64-55 with 3:41 left to play.
Poor free-throw shooting plagued the Bluejays.
“We couldn’t hit a free throw, which killed us,” Ratzlaff said. “That hurt us because that was right in the stretch where (the Threshers) were actually hitting threes.”
Tabor made only 14 of 23 free throws in the half compared to 12 of 14 for the Threshers. For the game, Bethel made 21 of 26 while Tabor managed 18 of 28.
Chippeaux finished with a double-double, leading Tabor with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Nemit added 11 points and Samuel 10.
Coming––Tabor will compete at Southwestern (6-8, 15-10) Thursday at 8 p.m. before hosting the University of St. Mary (13-1, 19-6), ranked No. 21 in the country, Saturday at 7 p.m.