One Swede win

He may have been one of the smallest players listed in the program, but Tabor point guard Scott Brubacher played huge on the court Saturday night, sparking Tabor to a 79-67 road win over Bethany, the preseason conference favorite.

The 5-10 Hillsboro High School product came off the bench to score 19 points, hitting four of five field goals and 10 of 13 free throws, and he spearheaded his team’s tenacious defensive play in the second half.

The win thrust the Bluejays (7-3) into an early advantage in the KCAC race as they head into the holiday break with a 3-0 conference mark.

Starter Dustin Frost and Brubacher were sharing the point-guard role until Frost aggravated a muscle strain in the abdomen and was forced to leave the game.

Brubacher responded with 12 points in the last 9:11 of the game as Tabor expanded a tenuous 53-49 lead until the final gun.

Brubacher created havoc for Bethany by driving the lane and either hitting the layup or drawing the foul. He canned seven of the eight free throws he was awarded down the stretch. His 3-pointer with 49 seconds left in the game was the final nail in Bethany’s coffin as it expanded Tabor’s lead to 72-64.

“He handled it well,” an understated coach and father, Don Brubacher, said after the game. “He helped us stay organized. I was most pleased with his play.”

But this game was hardly a one-man show. It took a complete team effort to battle the Swedes, who led for most of the first half and maintained a 33-30 advantage at halftime.

Tabor grabbed its first lead since midway through the first half when Micah Ratzlaff hit a 3-pointer with 15:45 to play.

After Bethany’s Ryan Knight countered with a bucket in the paint, Ratzlaff followed with a second 3-pointer to give Tabor the lead for good, 45-43, with 15:16 to play.

Tabor shot almost 55 percent from the field in the second half to keep the Swedes at bay.

“They play an unusual style of defense,” Coach Brubacher said. “It’s something you can’t practice against completely, so you have to learn as you go. We just learned as the game went along and we did get better.”

Ratzlaff finished with 17 points. Also breaking into double figures were Lance Redetzke and Jimmy Janzen with 11.

Though the Bluejays played one of their most efficient halves on offense, Brubacher said it was their second-half defense that truly won the game.

“(Bethany) had a couple of particular movements in their half-court offense that hurt us badly in the first half,” Brubacher said. “We just adjusted, took those parts of the game away, and at least limited their good shots.”

Afterward, Brubacher downplayed the importance of the victory in the conference race, but he did see a more important benefit.

“To come in here, a pretty difficult place to play where Tabor traditionally has had a huge amount of difficulty getting a win, and come away with one when we’re still learning our game, is just a great confidence builder for our team,” he said.

“I hope it gives them confidence in the things they’re working hard on, that those aspects of the game are going to help us succeed.”

Friends-Kevin Koehn was no friend to Friends Thursday night in Hillsboro.

Tabor’s 6-4 senior standout hurt the Falcons with his timely scoring and defense throughout regulation. But he killed them in overtime, scoring all nine of Tabor’s points, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer that gave the Bluejays a 76-73 win.

With 12.5 seconds left in overtime, the Bluejays worked the ball around the perimeter until Koehn calmly stepped back and launched a 24-foot bomb that sailed through the net as the buzzer sounded.

“People might think that’s an unusual shot for Kevin to make,” coach Don Brubacher said. “But if you watch him play very much, you know that the step-back 3 from anywhere within 27 to 28 feet is one of his favorite shots.”

Brubacher said he had hoped for a shot inside. But when that didn’t materialize, he said Koehn assessed the situation well.

“He played with a great deal of composure there,” Brubacher said. “I was really proud of him-not just for making the shot, but having the composure to be relaxed and make a very good decision.”

Koehn got the Bluejays off to a strong start, scoring seven of his team’s first 10 points on two 3-pointers and a free throw to give Tabor its first lead, 10-9. The visitors had gotten three 3-pointers from Troy Dusenbery in the first two and a half minutes.

Tabor continued to build its lead until a traditional three-point play by Lance Redetzke gave Tabor its biggest margin of the night, 34-18, with two minutes left in the half.

Friends responded with an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 10 at intermission. They kept right on going when play resumed, orchestrating a 9-0 run in the first two minutes to cut the lead to one, 34-33.

The two teams went toe-to-toe the rest of the half. Friends went up by as many as four points, 51-47, on a Dusenbery 3-pointer with 10:07 to go. Then Tabor went up by six, 62-56, on a 3-pointer by Koehn with 4:16 to play.

Friends’ Marcus Coleman hit a 3-pointer from the right side to tie the game at 67 with 10 seconds to play. Tabor’s Dustin Frost took the inbounds pass and drove the length of the court for the game winner. But his shot driving into the lane bounced off the back of the rim with three seconds left.

Friends got one last chance to win when a questionable call by the officials on a deflected inbounds pass down court gave the Falcons the ball in their forecourt with 2.1 seconds left. Following a timeout, the Falcon’s James O’Brien missed a 17-foot game-winner as the buzzer sounded to end regulation.

With the exception of the way his team lost its lead before and after halftime, Brubacher was pleased with his club’s defensive and offensive improvement.

“I really felt in every aspect of the game, this was a positive step forward for us compared to our play last week and our play in Missouri,” he said.

Koehn finished with a game-high 29 points, hitting eight of 10 field goals, including five of six 3-pointers. He made eight of nine free-throws.

Micah Ratzlaff added 16 points, including two crowd-pleasing breakaway slam dunks.

Dusenbery scored 26 points for Friends, including six 3-pointers.

Coming-Tabor will play one more game before taking its holiday break. On Friday, the Bluejays travel to Wichita to play Kansas Newman.

The Jets defeated Tabor, 71-68, in an earlier meeting this season.

In addition to Dustin Frost’s aggravated injury in the Bethany game, Kevin Koehn went down with a sprained ankle in the second half. The status of either player has not been determined for Friday night’s game.

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