Two road wins raise Bluejays’ streak to six

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Tabor’s Micah Ratzlaff deserves a role in the movie “The Fast and the Furious.”

That’s no reflection on the way he drives a car, but on the way he’s been beginning basketball games lately.

Ratzlaff bombarded the Friends Falcons (5-11, 2-6) with a barrage of long-range jumpers to give his team an 18-4 lead early in their game Saturday night in Wichita.

The outburst helped propel the Bluejays to a 68-56 win over the Falcons and extend Tabor’s winning streak to six games.

The 6-4 All-American nailed five of his six shots, including four of of five from 3-point range for 15 first-half points.

Even with Ratzlaff’s heroics, defense may have been the Bluejays’ best weapon. Smothering the Falcons with a tough man-to-man, Tabor never let Friends find an offensive rhythm in the opening half.

“It seemed in the first half that our style of defense was really uncomfortable for them,” coach Don Brubacher said. “They had some unforced errors, too.”

Helping the Bluejay cause was the absence of Friend’s 6-9 sophomore Antoine Tisby, who was declared ineligible last week. Tisby was leading the KCAC in scoring (20.7) and rebounding (11.3).

“Losing Tisby changed things in a big way,” Brubacher said. “That kind of interior presence made their perimeter game stronger because your guards have to help down low.”

But Friends didn’t lose this game because of the absence of one player.

The Bluejays connected on 52 percent of their first-half shots, including six of 12 from behind the 3-point line. Tabor’s defense limited the Falcons to 28 percent shooting.

That combination was enough to catapult the Bluejays to a commanding 35-19 lead at the break.

Tabor was on cruise control the second half. Friends closed the gap to 10 points, 50-40, with just over eight minutes to play, but the Falcons would get no closer.

Friends may have found a new star in 6-8 Jonathon Jones, who scored 22 points and snatched 17 rebounds.

“We guarded Jonathon pretty well for the most part,” Brubacher said. “But when we made even a small mistake, he punished us.”

Brubacher liked the way his team got the ball to the open man.

“Micah hit some key shots at several points in the game,” Brubacher said. “But I have to give credit to the team for getting him some good looks.”

The Bluejays finished the game hitting 21 of 47 shots from the field (45 percent) while limiting the Falcons to 39 percent. Tabor also canned 18 of 26 free-throw attempts (69 percent).

Ratzlaff finished with a game-high 23 points.

“Micah had a chance to set and get a good look at the basket,” Brubacher said. “But that’s not all he did. He boarded well and passed the ball well, too.”

Brad Gattis added 13 points and led the team with seven rebounds.

With the win, Tabor improved its record to 10-7 overall and 5-3 in the KCAC-two games out of first place.

“Before the break, we couldn’t find a defense that we did well,” Brubacher said. “Now we’re executing defense better.

“There’s still a lot of room for improvement, but it’s a lot better than it was.”

Tabor 88, Saint Mary 69

Tabor recorded its fifth straight win with an 88-69 conquest of Saint Mary College, Thursday in Leavenworth.

The final margin of victory did not reflect how competitive the game actually was, though. As it frequently did in this season, Tabor built an early lead, then watched it vanish.

The Bluejays built a 14-point led in the first half, only to have the Spires bounce back with an 8-0 run.

“We still struggle with consistency,” coach Don Brubacher said. “We struggle to continuing doing the things that work for us on the court.

Tabor took a 40-31 lead into the locker room at halftime, but every time the Bluejays extended the lead in the second half, the Spires came right back.

Tabor was leading by only six points with just over five minutes to play before expanding the lead to 12 points with around two minutes to go.

Solid free-throw shooting down the stretch enabled the Bluejays to build the final margin of victory.

For the night, Tabor shot 52 percent from the field despite a cool 5-for-21 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Five Tabor players notched double digit scoring, led by Micah Ratzlaff with 21. Brad Gattis added 19, Scott Brubacher and Cody Schafer 12 each, and Jeremiah Randall 10.

Bobby Burkin paced Saint Mary with a game-high 22.

“We took good open shots, but we did not shoot the ball well from deep,” Brubacher said. “We got some really high-percentage shots.”

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