ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
The Tabor men’s basketball team concluded the pre-season portion of its schedule still searching for the elusive first win of the season.
Tabor hosted its own Thanksgiving Tournament over the weekend, dropping two more games to high-caliber opponents.
The Bluejays started the week with a loss to Newman University.
Fresno Pacific-Looking for that first win, the Bluejays stared into the eyes of NAIA Division I Fresno Pacific University on Saturday.
It wasn’t an easy task.
Facing a team with players 7-feet, 6-9 and 6-8 the Bluejays would have to rely on their quickness and hustle to overcome their considerable size disadvantage, especially with center Jeremiah Randall sidelined for the second straight game due to injuries.
It almost worked, but Tabor lost the game in overtime, 92-84.
The Bluejays came out gunning, and when Josh Reeves and James Black hit consecutive 3-point baskets, Tabor had built a 10-point, 22-12 lead with just over 10 minutes to play in the half.
With Tabor leading 37-27 with just 3:18 to play in the half, the Sunbirds made a charge, scoring the final nine points of the half to cut the margin to just one, 37-36 at intermission.
“We’ve only built a couple leads in our games this year, and we gave them up each time,” coach Don Brubacher said. “It’s not unusual.”
The second half featured back and forth action until Tabor tied the game at 71 with 1:02 to play.
Fresno Pacific regained the lead by two points with 39 seconds left. Tabor was forced to foul, and the officials deemed the foul by Anthony Monson intentional, and awarded Albert Jones two free throws, plus the Sunbirds retained possession of the ball.
Jones obliged by missing both free throws, and the Bluejays stole the inbounds pass to give themselves a chance for the tie or win.
Working the clock, Cody Schafer hit a twisting layup with just two seconds to play, getting whacked in the process.
But the men in stripes chose to swallow their whistles on the play and the game went into overtime.
“I thought we should have had a chance to win the game from the free-throw line after our last basket, but we didn’t get that call,” Brubacher said.
The overtime belonged to the Sunbirds, and Albert Jones in particular. Jones blitzed the Bluejays for eight points to redeem himself for his costly missed free throws at the end of regulation.
Monson paced Tabor with 23 points while Cody Schafer (11) and Jared Reese (10) also scored in double digits.
The Bluejays shot 40 percent from the field while Fresno Pacific countered with 62.5 percent.
Missouri Valley-For a stretch of the first half, it appeared Tabor would get its first victory of the season Friday night. But a cold spell before intermission put Tabor behind at halftime and eventually for the rest of the game for a 72-69 defeat.
The Bluejays began slowly, falling behind by as many as eight, 13-5 with 15:46 to play in the half. But coach Don Brubacher ignited a rally that saw Tabor outscore its opponents 21-4 over the next nine minutes for a 26-17 lead. But Missouri Valley came back to grab a 33-30 lead at intermission.
In the second half, Tabor twice cut the margin to three points, but could never catch Missouri Valley on the scoreboard. The lead swelled to as much as 12 points, 65-53 with just 4:20 to play in the contest.
But the Bluejays roared back to challenge for the lead.
Brad Gattis nailed a 3-pointer followed by back-to-back Colby Bettles hustle baskets, and Tabor was within seven, 67-60 with 2:11 left. Tabor continued to whittle away at the lead, but the final three-point margin was as close as they could come.
Rebounding and turnovers were the main culprits in the Bluejays’ sixth straight loss.
“I’m not sure how we’re staying close,” Brubacher said. “We stayed close tonight with 19 turnovers and only 12 assists, which is just amazing.”
For the game, Gattis led the Jays in scoring with 17 points. Bettles added 15 and Nelson 11.
Newman-The Tabor Bluejays saw their season record fall to 0-5 with a 90-73 loss to Kansas Newman last week in Wichita.
The game was tied at 36 at halftime as Tabor was award 16 shots at the charity stripe compared to just five for Newman.
But in the second half, hot-shooting Newman (69.2 percent) and costly turnovers by the Bluejays made it difficult for Tabor in the end.
“Turnovers and some defensive breakdowns, I think, were at the heart of our demise down the stretch,” coach Don Brubacher said.
Tabor committed 27 turnovers, which Newman converted into 24 points.
Brad Gattis led the Bluejays with 16 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Josh Reeves added 15 points while Anthony Monson contributed 13.
On a bright note, the Bluejays out-rebounded Newman, 36-25.
“We did a good job on the boards,” Brubacher said. “We showed some marked improvement with that part of the game and we’re happy with that because that’s very important for us.”
For the game, the Bluejays shot 43.6 percent from the field compared to 60 percent by Newman. Jordan McGreevy led Newman with 34 points.
Although not pleased with the final result, Brubacher said there are signs things may be turning around.
“We had some times where we played the best basketball we’ve seen from this group this year,” he said. “Unfortunately, we are still making a lot of mistakes, so the downside overcame the improvements.”