ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ERIC CLARK
Led by Tyson Ratzlaff’s 24 points, seven rebounds and three steals, the Tabor College men’s basketball team held onto a 79-75 win over Ottawa University Saturday night despite blowing a 21-point lead in the second half.
Shooting 50 percent for the night, their best shooting percentage all year, the Bluejays held off a late-game rally by the Braves.
Coach Don Brubacher said his team continues to learn every time they step out onto the court.
“It’s a learning experience,” Brubacher said. “For our group, every game has a significant amount of learning that’s taking place. We think about the returning players we have, but you think about the players we don’t have returning from last year’s team. It is a completely new team from last year, the roles are different.
“Tonight we learned how well we can play defensively when we are really at the edge of our physical ability, our energy level and our concentration mentally,” he added. “It’s great that we didn’t have to lose the basketball game to learn a lesson.”
The Bluejays came out firing in the first half, hitting half of their field goals and leading by as much as 17 before heading to the locker room at half with a 41-26 lead.
Tabor’s Jeremiah Randall had all 11 of his points in the first half.
In the second half, the Braves’ sharpshooters woke up. Ottawa’s Chris McNaughton and Nick Young each had 3-pointers in the first two minutes of the final period.
The Braves continued to chop away at the Jays’ lead throughout the final half, and with less than a minute remaining Ottawa tied the game at 71.
Ottawa threatened to take the lead in the final minute, but Tabor made its free-throw attempts down the stretch to preserve the win.
After the game, Brubacher said he and his players had talked about an Ottawa rally at halftime.
“Ottawa is a good team,” Brubacher said. “We talked about letting them get on a role. They have a pile of good shooters. In the second half we gave them a little more space, not a lot, and they really took advantage of it.”
In the last two games, Tabor’s starters have been putting in some major time on the court. Ratzlaff has played more than 70 minutes and is averaging 20 points over the past two games.
Brubacher said the Bluejays were showing signs of weariness during the last two games.
“Offensively, we’ve really shown some fatigue,” Brubacher said. “We’re trying really hard to find a combination of players who are going to produce on the court. Early in the season, I probably played too many people too little time, so we didn’t find that team work or chemistry early.”
Ratzlaff was 6-for-10 from the field and 1-for-3 from behind the 3-point line for his game-high 24 points. Scott Brubacher shot 3-for-5 from the field and 3-for-4 from behind the arc for 13 points, and had two assists and two steals, including a steal in the final minute of regulation.
“Scott had a big steal when they were within one,” Brubacher said. “We had a couple of huge steals in the last minutes of the basketball game.”
Sterling-Jimmy Janzen’s career-high 26 points helped lead the Bluejays to a 73-62 win over the Sterling College Warriors Thursday night at home.
Janzen was 8-for-11 from the field and 2-for-4 from behind the arc.
“Jimmy Janzen is stepping up and having some huge offensive games,” Brubacher said. “He was not in that position last year.”
The Bluejays established a 34-25 advantage by halftime. In the second half, Tabor continued its dominance, shooting 52.6 percent from the field.
Tabor’s Tyson Ratzlaff played all but 2:55 of the ball game. He scored 16 points, and accumulated five rebounds, one steal and one assist.
Coming-The Bluejays, 7-9 overall and tied for the KCAC lead at 5-1 with Saint Mary, travel to Salina Thursday night to face Kansas Wesleyan University. They host Bethel College Saturday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m and 6 p.m., respectively.