TC men win two more, pull within one of top spot

It didn’t go into double-overtime like the Tabor-Bethel football game did this fall, but it was a vintage Bluejay-Thresher showdown.

In the end, Tabor did just enough to survive and maintain just one game behind the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference leader Sterling, with a 72-67 win Saturday night in North Newton.

“Bethel is a good team and they’re playing everybody close,” coach Don Brubacher said. “We are fortunate to get a win here, there’s no question about it.”

Early, Tony Hoops’ 3-point bombs, combined with a Ryan Lohfink basket, staked Bethel to a quick 8-2 lead.

But Tabor looked to point guard Grant Brubacher to mount a comeback. Brubacher scored Tabor’s first five points on the way to 14 points in the opening 20 minutes.

The first half produced seven lead changes and three ties.

With the game tied at 26 and just over two minutes remaining, Scott Shaffer and a Grant Brubacher hit 3-pointers on either side of a Lohfink basket to take a 32-28 lead at halftime.

Brubacher said his team adjusted its defense to better cover Bethel’s 3-point shooters.

“Those adjustments allowed us to get through some of the perimeter picks and to let us handle some of those picks,” he said.

Bethel tied the game at 32 to begin the second half. But Tabor scored six straight to open its largest lead of the night, 38-32.

Lohfink scored seven of Bethel’s next nine points and the Threshers cut the lead back to a single point, 38-37, with 14:53 remaining.

With Tabor leading, 45-43, with 11:31 to play, the Bluejays went on a 14-1 binge on the inside play of Martin de Boer, Pat Miller and Anthony Monson.

Tabor suddenly was ahead, 57-45, with just over six minutes left.The Bluejays still led, 63-52, with less than 3 minutes to go when Jayson Artaz and Hoops connected on four straight highly contested 3-point shots to whittle Tabor’s lead to 67-61.

“Recently, it’s become automatic that down the stretch we’re going to face some truly extraordinary shooting,” Brubacher said.

“We did what’s become our pattern lately, and that’s to build a lead and then we give up some unanswered points and the game gets closer,” he added. “Hopefully, we settle down and play solid basketball to reestablish that lead.”

Steady free-throw shooting by Tabor down the stretch allowed the Bluejays to maintain their lead. They scored their final 11 points from the charity stripe to preserve the five-point win.

Leading the way for Tabor was Grant Brubacher, who played all 40 minutes on his way to a game-high 23 points.

“It just felt to me as though we needed him on the court,” coach Brubacher said. “It seemed as though we weren’t going to get much done without him out there. It’s not always that way, but we felt we needed his leadership and decision-making tonight.”

Also reaching double figures were Andy Brubacher and Scott Shaffer with 10 each.

Tabor connected on 23 of 49 field-goal attempts (47 percent) compared to 25 of 61 (41 percent) for the Threshers.

Tabor was 18-for-26 (69 percent) from the foul line while Bethel went 7-for-7.

With its sixth straight win, Tabor remains in the thick of the KCAC race with a 10-4 conference record while improving to 16-8 overall.

“We’re happy to go home with what we have,” Brubacher sighed.

McPherson-Tabor continued its late-season assault to defend its Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference title by defeating McPherson College, 66-57, Thursday in Hillsboro.

Brad Gattis’s stuff at the buzzer punctuated the victory over one of three teams ahead of them in the conference.

McPherson proved to be worthy of the top spot early in the half, holding the hometown Bluejays at bay.

Although the game was tied twice in the early going, Tabor trailed the rest of the half, the largest deficit being 17-10 with 8:44 remaining.

McPherson relied on the 3-point shot, canning five of 13 in the half, including a stretch where five of their six field goals all came from long range.

But behind the steadily improving play of Martin de Boer, and a surprising offensive contribution by James Black, the Bluejays took their first lead of the night at 23-22 with 4:11 left in the half.

Both players came off the bench to spark the rally.

Black nailed two of three shots from beyond the 3-point arc while de Boer scored both inside the paint and beyond the 3-point arc for 12 first0half points.

“There’s no question James gave us a big lift in the first half,” Brubacher said. “He hit a couple of 3s, played good defense and got on the boards. That was important to us because we were really struggling.”

Displaying the talents which made him a highly anticipated transfer early in the season, de Boer showed amazing versatility for a man 6-foot-7 and more than 250 pounds.

“Martin just had a good all-around game,” Brubacher said. “He guarded pretty much the way we felt we needed to in order to be successful. He was strong on the boards and he produced some real good offense for us.”

Grant Brubacher’s hanging runner in the lane at the buzzer gave Tabor a 29-27 halftime lead and set the stage for a pivotal second half.

Neither team took command when play resumed. With the game tied at 37 with 13:20 to play, Tabor launched a 13-0 run keyed by traditional 3-point plays from Grant Brubacher and Chris Metcalf. Tabor led 50-37 with 7:46 to play, throwing the large crowd into a frenzy.

Brubacher said excellent play on both ends of the court were responsible for the surge.

“Defensively, we really sat on them,” he said. “Every movement they ran, we had somebody out on the shooter. When they put it on the floor we had someone help on defense. We rebounded well and we denied the pass to their post player effectively.”

“Those are the things you need to do against McPherson.

Tabor’s lead reached 16 points, 54-38, moments later before the dreaded 3-point shot brought McPherson back into the game.

In just 70 seconds, the Bulldogs nailed three 3-pointers to cut the lead to 54-47.

“We were up 16 and we became comfortable,” Brubacher said. “We got sloppy defensively.”

Fortunately for Tabor, adept free-throw shooting down the stretch accounted for 10 of Tabor’s final 12 points as Tabor hung on for the huge win.

De Boer led Tabor with 16 points, Anthony Monson added 12 and Gattis battled the Bulldogs and the flu to finish with 10.

Tabor converted 15 of 20 free throws in the second half and 17 of 24 (71 percent) in the game while McPherson made only seven of eight.

The Bluejays were 22 of 48 from the field (46 percent), including five of 14 from beyond the 3-point arc.

McPherson made 19 of 57 from the field (33 percent) and 12 of 33 (36 percent) from beyond the arc.

The win left Tabor a game behind both Southwestern and Sterling with a 9-4 conference mark while improving to 15-8 overall. McPherson fell to 9-4 and 17-5.

“This win tightens the race a bit,” Brubacher said. “Every single conference game can produce some space. It allowed us to keep things a little more interesting.”

Coming-Tabor heads to Salina Thursday night to tangle with Kansas Wesleyan, who is winless in the KCAC at 0-14.

“They’re such a dangerous team,” Brubacher said. “Our team had a tendency to be complacent with some teams we’ve played this year and I’m concerned about how we’ll approach the game.”

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