The Tabor College men returned to the upward path with a 71-67 victory over Friends Saturday night. With the win, the Bluejays improved to 6-2 in the KCAC, 7-10 overall.
A tight first half featured 13 lead changes and 12 ties, with neither team pulling ahead by more than four points.
Back-to-back baskets by Ryan Chippeaux and Nick Sauer gave Tabor an early 4-2 lead.
The teams traded scores until a Falcon three-pointer gave Friends a 9-6 advantage. But Brent Jackson answered with a three for Tabor to tie the game.
The Bluejays played from behind for the next seven minutes until a basket by Chance LeBlanc gave Tabor a 15-14 advantage with 7:05 left in the half.
Despite baskets by Reggie Butler, Robbie Samuel and Jackson, Tabor trailed 27-23 at halftime after a 6-0 Falcon surge.
“Friends came out with an unusual defensive scheme that we struggled with for the first half,” coach Micah Ratzlaff said. “After some adjustments at halftime and a game plan to get (Chippeaux) the ball, we played much better.”
Tabor showed improved shooting from the field in the second half (58 percent compared with 36 percent) to finish at 46 percent for the game.
Michael Janzen tied the score at 31 at the 16:44 mark with a four-point play. Chippeaux followed with a three-point play to give Tabor a 34-33 lead less than 30 seconds later.
The score remained close until a basket by LeBlanc with 6:27 left in the game ignited a 10-0 Tabor surge for a 58-47 lead with 3:23 remaining.
Friends launched a final rally, but Tabor free throws kept the Falcons at bay.
“Free throws were huge down the stretch,” Ratzlaff said. “J.T. (Nemit) did a great job.”
Tabor made 14 of 19 free throws in the second half, while Nemit sank six of six for the night.
The Falcons drew within two, 69-67, with 15 seconds to play, but a Janzen basket with 8 seconds left sealed the four-point victory.
The Bluejays grabbed 45 total rebounds in the contest while Friends managed only 29.
“Rebounding is a big stat for us because it usually shows how aggressive and focused we are playing,” Ratzlaff said.
Chippeaux, who led the Bluejays with 15 points and 15 rebounds, was again named KCAC Player of the Week. He also earned the title in Week 2. Three additional Bluejays scored in double-digits: Jackson with 12 points, Samuel 11 and Butler 10.
Saint Mary—The Bluejays lost Thursday’s road game to KCAC leader Saint Mary, 88-76.
“Saint Mary played at a very high level,”coach Micah Ratzlaff said. “We had a couple chances to get back into the game, but we just couldn’t get enough stops on the defensive end. They can really score with multiple players.”
Four Spires finished as double-digit scorers, and Saint Mary outscored Tabor by 10 in the first half to finish with a 42-32 lead at the break. The Bluejays shot 46 percent from the field (10-22) in the opening half.
Tabor improved to 55 percent in the second half (17-31), but the effort was not enough for the Bluejays to overcome the home team.
“We shot the ball well and made enough plays on offense, we just couldn’t get enough stops and had too many turnovers down the stretch to give us a shot at the win,” Ratzlaff said.
Ryan Chippeaux led the Bluejays with 15 points and 12 rebounds for another double-double.
“Ryan Chippeaux was unstoppable late in the game and kept us close down the stretch,” Ratzlaff said. “He has been a great leader in the locker room as well as on the court the entire year.”
Coming––The Bluejays are scheduled to host Kansas Wesleyan (2-6, 5-13)?at 8 p.m. Wednesday before competing at Sterling (7-1, 13-6) at 7 p.m. Saturday.