ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Finding consistency on offense for the Tabor men’s basketball team is like finding a camel in the arctic.
“The only thing consistent for us is our inconsistency,” a befuddled coach Don Brubacher said after Tabor’s 63-61 loss to McKendree College of Lebanon, Ill., on Saturday.
“We have no idea who’s going to produce offense for us on a given night and a lot of nights we have no one who produces offense.”
Such is the plight of a team that shot 35.7 percent from the field in the final night of the Golden Heritage Foods Holiday Classic in Tabor’s gymnasium.
About the only thing classic about Tabor’s play was their comeback against the Bearcats- but that efforts fell short in the end.
Even though Tabor didn’t play particularly well in the opening 20 minutes, the game was close. In fact, the contest was tied on six occasions in the first half and featured nine lead changes.
But when Aaron Bond scored with 2:46 left in the half, McKendree grabbed 26-25 lead and never trailed again.
Eric Palm’s 3-point laser as the first-half horn sounded gave the Bearcats a 33-27 halftime lead-which wasn’t bad news considering Tabor made only nine of its of 27 shots in the first half.
Tabor’s second-half chances looked even rosier, considering the Bluejays had played all but three minutes of that half without their leading scorer, Brad Gattis, who was relegated to the bench with three quick fouls.
“Early in the game I thought we had a real chance to win,” Brubacher said. “We weren’t playing very well but we were staying close.”
Tabor rallied early in the second half behind a pair of Matt Nelson field goals to cut McKendree’s lead to 35-33. But a pair of baseline 3-point baskets by Brad Fischer pushed the Bearcat lead back to eight points.
Brubacher said that Fischer was McKendree’s top 3-point shooter made those baskets all the more unacceptable.
“The biggest thing we did defensively to shoot ourselves in the foot was, when we got close, they’d get an open 3-point shot,” he said. “It happened time and time again and we just weren’t alert enough to get out on their shooter when the game situation said that’s what we obviously needed to do.
“We knew coming in that (Fischer) was the guy we had to get out on. It’s just not good basketball to let the other team’s primary shooter hurt you that badly,” he added. “That was huge; in fact I think it’s fair to say it was crushing to our effort through the majority of the game.”
Both teams struggled to put points on the board after that. But the Bluejays understood they weren’t going to catch McKendree by trading buckets-especially when the lead grew to as many as 11 points.
Still trailing by 10 at 60-50 with 4:07 to play, Tabor suddenly found a spark-namely a pair of 3-point bombs by Pat Miller, the last of which completed an 11-1 run that tied the score at 61 with only 29 seconds remaining.
Several timeouts later, McKendree got the ball to Fischer who sank a running floater across the lane with only five seconds to play.
After Tabor advanced the ball to half court, Grant’s Brubacher’s desperation 3-point shot came up just short and McKendree held on for the two-point win.
Nelson and Chris Metcalf each scored 12 points to lead Tabor while Miller added 11 and Grant Brubacher contributed 10.
Fischer led the Bearcats with 16 points.
McKendree was coached by the legendary Harry Statham, who has won more than 900 games in his 40 years of coaching the Bearcats.
Tabor made 20 of 56 shots (35.7 percent) from the field, including four of 17 (23.5 percent) from long range. McKendree made 22 of 51 (43.1 percent) overall and six of 17 (35.3 percent) from 3-point land.
Both teams grabbed 36 rebounds with Miller hauling in a game-high 13.
Northwest Oklahoma State- To say Tabor looked rusty in Friday night’s tournament opener against Northwest Oklahoma State University is akin to saying the Titanic had a moisture problem on its maiden voyage.
Little went right for the hometown team as NOSU defeated Tabor, 68-51, in the Bluejays’ return to competition after a three-week holiday layoff.
Coach Don Brubacher said the idea that anything but inactivity was to blame for the poor showing is frightening.
“I sure hope the primary reason we played the way we did tonight is because we’ve had three weeks between games and just three days of practice after two weeks with no practice,” Brubacher said.
As bad as it was, Tabor hung with the bigger and physically stronger Rangers through most of the first half.
In fact, when Brad Gattis hit a short runner off a Jared Reese assist with 10:32 left in the half, Tabor enjoyed a 14-12 lead.
But little else went right for the Bluejays as NOSU used brute strength and a softly officiated first half to bully the Bluejays on the glass and in the paint.
The Rangers finished the half with a 14-6 run that gave them a 26-20 lead at intermission.
“The style of play obviously favored Northwestern in the first half, but it changed in the second half and those changes led to us getting the early foul calls,” Brubacher said.
When the Rangers extended their lead to as many as 13 with about five minutes to play, Andy Brubacher drained a 3-point that pulled Tabor to within nine points at the 4:14 mark.
With time running short for Tabor, the Bluejays launched tried a scrambling defense to get back into the game. But the ploy failed as NOSU pulled away and finished the game with its largest lead of the night, 68-51.
For the game, Tabor made 16 of 59 field-goal attempts (27.1 percent), included eight of 28 (28.6 percent) from behind the arc.
Also adding to Tabor’s demise was NOSU’s 54-30 domination on the boards. “When you look at the rebounding and shooting percentages, we should have lost by 30 points. I don’t know how we stayed as close as we did.”
Andy Brubacher led Tabor with nine point.
Coming-Tabor will take a 6-7 season record into Thursday home game against Ottawa. The two teams are tied for the top spot in the KCAC at 3-1.
Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.