Tabor gives No. 2 Warner all it can handle

Second-seeded Warner Southern College from Florida held off the Tabor College Bluejays, 87-78, in the first round of the 11th annual NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championships Wednesday, despite a valiant effort by the underdog Bluejays.

“We gave away loads of inches on the court,” Brubacher said. “We played hard enough to win, we simply needed a little more composure and a little better understanding of the game.

“It was a really fine effort by our team. It’s frustrating for them and it’s frustrating for me.”

The Bluejays jumped to an early 9-0 lead in the first four minutes of play before the Runnin’ Royals came back to take a 13-point lead into the locker room at intermission.

“We really gave up the run,” Brubacher said. “We just didn’t concentrate in the first half. (Jerry Moore) hit three threes in a row, all completely unguarded. That’s frustrating.”

Tabor’s Tyson Ratzlaff picked up three fouls early in the first half and road the pine for almost half of the first period.

Brubacher said that stretch was crucial to the game’s outcome.

“The foul trouble with Tyson was absolutely huge,” Brubacher said. “It’s really disappointing having one of your best players sitting on the bench for half of the half. It changed our team’s approach a lot.”

But Tabor rallied in the second half, cutting Warner Southern’s lead to as little as four points, 55-51, after Jeremiah Randall’s field goal at the 13:48 mark of the second half.

The Royals maintained a four- to six-point lead for the next four minutes.

Tabor stayed within striking distance throughout the rest of the game. Ernest Nortey pulled Tabor to within five points, with just under two minutes to play in regulation, with a field goal.

Warner Southern played tough defense down the stretch and held off the Jays for the win.

The Runnin’ Royals were led by Anthony Brown, who finished with 26 points. Moore added 12.

Tabor’s Nortey finished his college career with a double-double, 22 points and 12 rebounds. Jimmy Janzen and Ratzlaff added 15 and 14 points, respectively.

The Bluejays out-rebounded the Runnin’ Royals 43-42 despite giving up six to seven inches at almost every position.

Brubacher praised Nortey’s performance.

“He absolutely played the game of his life-without a doubt,” Brubacher said.

The Bluejays finish with a 15-15 record overall.

“This season has been a constant learning experience for us,” Brubacher said. “Virtually every team we play has some wrinkle in its game. And we have to figure out how to deal with them.

“We really didn’t see what we expected to see from them. We still went through stages of the game where we made a lot of mistakes. It’s understandable, but it’s the difference of the game.

“It’s disappointing to lose,” Brubacher said. “I thought we competed as hard as we are capable of competing. We had to play incredibly hard to compete.”

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