Looking toward the finish

The Tabor men’s basketball team used great shooting and a strong defensive effort to pull out a big 79-65 road win over Southwestern College Monday night.

The win, coupled with a Saint Mary loss over the weekend, sets the Jays on track for a showdown with the Spires for the conference title this Saturday.

Tabor was led once again by junior swingman Micah Ratzlaff, who scored a team-high 17 points. He also grabbed six rebounds.

The Bluejays started the game sizzling hot, shooting 72 percent from the floor in the first half. They also made 12 of 16 free throws en route to an eight-point half time lead, 43-35.

Tabor assured themselves high-percentage shots and trips to the free throw line by pounding the ball inside.

Post player Ernest Nortey scored nine points and went 5-of-6 from the free throw line. He also scored a breakaway dunk late in the first half to give the Bluejays momentum.

The outcome was still in doubt in the second half until a Tabor run put the game away.

During a three-minute span half way through the second half, senior Chris Popp and sophomore Scott Brubacher combined for a 9-0 Tabor spurt.

That run stretched the lead from nine points to 18 points, and the Moundbuilders were never within single digits again.

Tabor will try to wrap up the KCAC regular-season championship this week when they host rival Bethel College on Thursday and then travel to Saint Mary on Saturday.

TC 76, Kansas Wesleyan 55

Tabor avenged their first KCAC loss of the season with a thorough 76-55 win over Kansas Wesleyan Saturday night in Hillsboro.

This game was a day-and-night difference from the Jays’ overtime loss to the Coyotes three weeks ago in Salina.

A 13-0 explosion from the 14-minute mark to the 10:50 mark of the first half gave the Bluejays control of the game. During that decisive stretch, Tabor got 3-pointers from three players, including Micah Ratzlaff, who also added a slam dunk that brought the capacity home crowd to its feet.

Tabor slowly but effectively increased the margin through the rest of the game. The gap was widest at 30 points, 74-40, with two and a half minutes to play.

“The biggest difference was Wesleyan did not come out and attack us they way they did at their place,” coach Don Brubacher said.

“They’ve been on a bad stretch lately. They didn’t have as much enthusiasm to play as they did when we played them at their place. It’s also true that when we played in Salina, we didn’t have the enthusiasm to play that we had tonight.”

Tabor, which held the edge in almost every statistical category, outshot the Coyotes 51 percent to 40 percent and outrebounded them 37-27. The Jays committed only four turnovers in the second half after registering 11 in the first 20 minutes.

“In the second half we did a good job of taking care of the basketball,” Brubacher said. “I told the players that I thought this was a very positive step for us from what we have been accomplishing on the basketball court lately. We executed our offense better than we have. We were more determined in our board play than we have been in a long time.”

Ratzlaff led four Bluejays in double figures with 15 points. Dustin Frost added 13, Ernest Nortey 12 and Kevin Koehn 11.

Ottawa 82, TC 71

The challenges of the road caught up with Tabor again in Ottawa, where the Bluejays were upset by the Braves, 82-71, Thursday night.

Poor shooting and lackluster rebounding were key weaknesses in the Jays’ game, according to coach Don Brubacher.

“We executed poorly on the offensive end and gave up a bunch of 3-point shots,” he said.

Tabor trailed by 11 late in the first half, then closed the margin to seven at intermission, 40-33.

Tabor tied the game at 58 midway through the second half on a pair of 3-pointers by Micah Ratzlaff, then fell behind by a half dozen again when Ottawa’s Chris McNaughton hit two 3-pointers of his own.

Two free throws by Dustin Frost with 7:19 left in the game pulled Tabor to within two points, but the Jays missed a 3-pointer that would have given them the lead and the Braves’ Dustin McGuire hit his to push Ottawa ahead by four.

Ottawa hit nine of 10 free throws over the last three and a half minutes to seal the win.

“Down the stretch, we couldn’t get anything executed on the offensive end and we just struggled to rebound the whole game,” Brubacher said.

The other common theme in Tabor’s three road losses in the KCAC was physical play.

“It seems, for whatever reason, the games are very physically played by our opponents, but we can’t seem to figure out how to play physically and have it fit within the parameters of the game that night,” Brubacher said.

Micah Ratzlaff scored 16 points to lead four Bluejays in double figures; he hit four 3-pointers. Dustin Frost added 14 points, Kevin Koehn 12 and Ernest Nortey 10.

As a team, Tabor shot just under 44 percent from the field, including a 9-of-25 performance from behind the arc.

Coming-Tabor wraps up its regular season schedule with a home game against the Bethel Threshers on Thursday night, then a potential title showdown with Saint Mary in the season finale on Saturday in Leavenworth.

The Bethel game will begin at 8 p.m. and the Saint Mary game at 7 p.m.

The KCAC post-season tournament will begin next week. Pairings will be announced the Free Press Free Line (947-3363) and the Free Press Web site as they become available.

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