ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Forgive Friend’s coach Dale Faber for smiling when his Falcons fell behind the Tabor men 21-11 midway through the first half of Saturday night’s game in Hillsboro.
But Faber was probably thinking he had the Bluejays right where he wanted them.
For the second time is as many games, Tabor blew a 10-point lead to its opponent and ended up losing to Friends, 67-60, to fall to 0-2 in conference play.
“We started breaking down defensively and gave penetration in the lane and gave up some 3-point shots,” coach Don Brubacher said about the decisive 25-4 Falcon run before halftime.
“We just forgot ourselves. We were pretty focused early and we just started letting it slip away from us as the half wore on.
“On the offensive end, we just couldn’t hit any shots.”
Tabor seemed to be in good shape early as seven different players contributed to a 21-11 lead with 9:25 left in the half. But the Falcons’ big run put them on top, 36-25 at halftime.
“We had some possessions where I wasn’t satisfied with our movement, but we basically got a good shot in each possession,” he said. “But we’re back in that rut where we can’t score.”
Tabor came out strong in the second half, and played arguably its best basketball through the first six minutes.
After falling behind 38-25, Tabor went on a 16-2 run highlighted by 3-point bombs from Jason Dechant and Andy Brubacher to grab a 41-40 lead at the 13:49 mark.
“I thought we did a very nice job coming out in the second half and took advantage of some offensive opportunities,” Brubacher said. “But again, we got some shots and put them in the basket.”
From then on, the game turned into a street brawl with 11 lead changes and three ties.
Brubacher blamed his offense for the close game.
“We go through stretches where it doesn’t matter what shots we get, we just can’t score,” he said. “Then we put immense pressure on our defense until we make a little mistake here and a little mistake there, and the game’s gotten away from us.”
Adding to the offensive struggles was Friends’ physical play and trash talk. Tempers flared when Scott Shaffer was fouled not once, but twice, on layups.
Still, Tabor led 57-55 at the 4:31 mark.
But a 3-point goal by Greg Carrell gave Friends a 58-57 lead and the Falcons went on to outscore Tabor 9-3 down the stretch.
Getting better on both ends of the floor will be essential if Tabor has any hope of repeating as KCAC champions, Brubacher said.
“We have to get better and we need to do that by limiting our defensive mistakes-the ones that cost us,” he said. “We can still play substantially better defensively than we did tonight.”
Brubacher also said the Bluejays need to work on their rebounding.
Grant Brubacher scored 16 points to lead Tabor while Anthony Monson scored eight points and hauled in 10 rebounds.
The Bluejays hit 35 percent for the game but limited the Falcons to 38 percent from the field.
Friends had a decided advantage from the foul line, hitting 19 of 27 (70.4 percent) compared to just 10 of 14 (71.4 percent) for Tabor.
The loss dropped Tabor to 4-5 overall and 0-2 in conference play.
Southwestern-Just when the Bluejays looked like they had positioned themselves for a conference-opening road victory at Southwestern Thursday night, those prospects were extinguished quicker than a candle in a Kansas thunderstorm.
The Moundbuilders won, 74-68, overcoming a 10-point deficit in the games final eight minutes.
Coach Don Brubacher didn’t mince words about the debacle.
“We played hard at times, but when we really needed to buckle down and make a play on the defensive end, we didn’t do it.”
Initially, the Bluejays seemed to be focused. Scott Shaffer led the charge, either scoring or assisting on four of Tabor’s first five baskets to stake the Jays to an early 11-9 lead.
The game remained close until halftime, when Tabor settled on a 40-34 halftime advantage-thanks in large part to shooting 57 percent from the field, including five of 11 shots from behind the arc.
Grant Brubacher scored 15 points in the half and Shaffer added five assists.
In the second half, Tabor built a 47-38 lead with 19:05 to play on a 3-point goal by Brad Gattis. But the Moundbuilders countered with a 9-2 run over the next four minutes to cut the lead to 49-47.
Just as quickly, Tabor got its offense flowing, building its largest lead of the night at 61-51 with just 8:34 to play.
But a missed shot by Tabor ignited a run that included a pair of 3-point baskets sandwiched around a pair of free throws. The Bluejay lead was down to 61-59 at the 7:03 mark.
A put-back by Anthony Monson broke the run, but a traditional three-point play followed by a K.J. Wilkens 3-point basket gave Southwestern its first lead of the night, 65-63, with 4:50 to play.
Brubacher said poor rebounding by his team fueled Southwestern’s surge.
“Our defensive boards, when the game was on the line, absolutely killed us,” he said. “We had a four- or five-point lead, and for the rest of the game they destroyed us on the defensive boards.
“They basically shot until they scored.”
Tabor stayed close, but poor shooting, bad decisions and a porous defense down the stretch doomed the Bluejays.
“Once we got ahead by 10, we lost our shooters and they made shots on us,” Brubacher said. “We just didn’t guard anybody.
“The bottom line is they got more aggressive and more assertive trying to make plays and we backed off and let them make plays and that included our board play,” he added.
“To a considerable extent our offense worked, but we couldn’t finish around the basket.”
Tabor was led in scoring by Gattis with 17 points, Grant Brubacher with 15 and Monson with 12.
Tabor was out-rebounded by Southwestern, 37-35, with Monson grabbing a team-high six.
Southwestern had four players in double digits, topped by Kendrick with 24.
After scorching the nets at 57 percent in the opening half, Tabor hit just 35.5 percent in the final stanza.
“If that’s as good as we are, we’re not going to win very many games,” Brubacher said.
Coming-Tabor continues KCAC play this week, hosting the University of Saint Mary on Thursday and then traveling to McPherson on Saturday.
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL