ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Defeating Sterling at the Gleason Center is about as rare as seeing Santa Claus. But it is December and Tabor was able to accomplish the feat-winning the game, not seeing Santa-at Sterling Saturday night, 78-70.
Although the game was at times close and at times not so close, Sterling never led.
“This is a big win for us,” Tabor coach Don Brubacher said. “It’s a positive factor for us at this time of the year.”
It was Tabor’s precision offense and relentless defense that produced its first double-digit lead at 18-8 with 13:44 left in the half.
The lead grew when Andy Brubacher and Tyler Weinbrenner connected on back-to-back 3-point baskets, giving Tabor a 32-16 advantage with 8:07 left.
But the Warriors battled back, cutting the lead to 39-32 by halftime. They pulled down 14 offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes that led to 12 second-chance points.
“Some of that is simply a result of how you have to defend Sterling,” Brubacher said. “You need to help in the lane, and those helpers lose their man when the shot goes up. So it’s difficult to get good rebounding position.
“Sterling takes full advantage of it, and that’s what hurt us the most.”
In the second half, Tabor needed seven minutes to return to a double-digit lead. When Matt Nelson and Andy Brubacher hit back-to-back 3-point shots, Tabor led 52-40 at the 12:51 mark.
For the game, Tabor drained 10 of 14 (71.4 percent) 3-point shots. Brubacher said the accuracy is nice but not realistic to expect on a consistent basis.
“When we took the 3-point shot we were usually open,” he said. “We got the shots as a result of double teams off (Sterling’s) pressure defense and good ball movement.
“Still, hitting 10 of 14 is a very fortunate result.”
The Bluejay lead swelled to 16 points at 65-49 when Brad Gattis hit knocked down a 3-point basket with 7:54 to play.
But Sterling used some wild full-court pressure to make one last run at the Bluejays.
When Jay Coles hit a 3-pointer for Sterling with 1:31 to play, the Tabor led was cut to an uncomfortable four points at 74-70.
“Sterling had several good scoring runs, and we had to make good defensive stands because we couldn’t produce any offense on our own end,” Brubacher said. “But we responded well. Sterling is very athletic and a team that’s capable of making such scoring runs.”
Fortunately for Tabor, Grant Brubacher and Pat Miller each connected on a pair of clutch free throws in the final minute to preserve the 78-70 victory.
Gattis led the Tabor with 18 points while Grant Brubacher added 16, including 11 of 12 free throws. Andy Brubacher added 14 and Tyler Weinbrenner 12.
Johar Moss led Sterling with 20 points.
Tabor hit a scorching 24 of 42 (58.5 percent) from the floor as well as 20 of 27 (74.1 percent) from the free-throw line.
Sterling hitting just 24 of 65 shots (36.9 percent) from the field, including six of 21 from the 3-point line.
Tabor lost the rebounding battle 34-31, but 20 of Sterling’s rebounds were on offense and resulted in 21 second-chance points.
“We’re still a young team trying to figure out our roles on the team and in our game,” Brubacher said. “We’re just beginning that process, so to come in and win on Sterling’s home court should build some confidence.”
With the victory, Tabor improved to 5-4 overall and 2-0 in KCAC play.
Bethany- Hulk Hogan would have been proud of Tabor in its conference opener against Bethany Thursday night in Hillsboro.
In what at times resembled a wrestling match more than a basketball game, Tabor finally put a head lock on Bethany with a 72-60 win.
Tabor coach Don Brubacher credited his team’s defense for the win.
“As usual, if you want to carry yourself through a season, you have to do it on the defensive end,” he said. “You have to get stops, and I thought we did a commendable job of making stops when we needed to.
“I thought we guarded the 3-point shot well most of the game.”
Tabor’s defense held the Swedes to 32.8 percent shooting (19 of 58) from the field, including only one of 12 shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
On offense, Brad Gattis led Tabor to a 35-31 lead at halftime. Working inside and outside, Gattis poured in 14 points in the opening period.
Tabor’s largest lead of the half came when Sage Hemmert, playing in his first game of the season after only three days of practice, scored off a Jared Reese assist to put Tabor on top, 21-16.
But Bethany roared back to tie the game two minutes later. The score was tied at 25-all with 4:28 to play in the half. The Swedes never led during the game.
Andy Brubacher’s 3-point bucket from the wing gave Tabor a 35-30 lead with 1:41 left in the half.
Matching Gattis point for point in the first half was Bethany’s Daniel Sherman, who, at 6-foot-8, 245 pounds, punished Tabor inside for 14 points and six rebounds.
But Tabor used the paint in the second half to not only get Sherman into foul trouble but to open an early double-digit lead.
“Our four and five spots, with Gattis and Chris Metcalf, got us off to a good start,” Brubacher said. “They did a good job positionally. We did a good of getting them the ball at the right time and they finished plays.”
A 3-point basket by Tyler Weinbrenner with 15:19 to play gave Tabor its first double-digit lead at 47-37.
Moments later, Weinbrenner drained a second long bomb and Grant Brubacher followed with baseline runner to give the Bluejays their biggest lead of the night at 54-38.
Key to Tabor’s run was solid ball handling by Weinbrenner and the Brubacher brothers.
Secure possession was critical considering the style of play allowed by the young officiating crew.
“Against (Bethany’s) style of defense, there will be some turnovers,” Brubacher said. “In fact, I don’t know if anyone could avoid that with that much contact, hand checking and reaching that was allowed.
“Overall, I thought we did a good job, but we still need to be tougher with the ball.”
Before the night was done, Bethany crept to within nine points on two occasions, thanks to some inept free-throw shooting by Tabor.
After draining six of nine charity tosses in the first half, Tabor made only six of 15 in the second half to finish the contest at 50 percent (12 of 24).
“Our free-throw shooting, especially late in the game, was abysmal,” Brubacher said. “The only reason we won was because of the job we did defensively.”
That defense shut out Sherman in the second half.
“(Sherman) wasn’t on the court as much in the half because of fouls, and the style of play they went to caused them to use more perimeter players,” Brubacher said. “But we did do a better job positionally against him in the second half.”
Down the stretch, fifth-year senior Grant Brubacher nailed a pair of clutch baseline jumpers and scored 10 of Tabor’s final 13 points to preserve the 72-60 KCAC victory.
Gattis finished with a game-high 18 points while Grant Brubacher added 15 points and Andy Brubacher pitched in 10, hitting 3-of-5 3-point attempts.
Tabor hit 48.1 percent (26 of 54) for the game, including 8 of 21 (38.1 percent) from beyond the arc.
The Bluejays were out-rebounded, 44-36; Gattis pulled down a team-high nine.
With the win, Tabor evened its record at 4-4 for the season while opening KCAC play at 1-0.
Coming- Tabor travels to Winfield Thursday to battle preseason favorite Southwestern before concluding its pre-Christmas schedule Saturday at home against McPherson.