ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Getting behind a slow driver on a busy road is annoying. What’s happening to the Tabor men’s basketball team during its current five-game skid is just plain frustrating.
Saturday, the Bluejays played 30 minutes of quality basketball only to disappear down the stretch, resulting in a 71-61 loss to an improved Kansas Wesleyan in Salina.
“We played harder (than in recent games) and with some intelligence for the first 30 minutes, but in the last 10 minutes, we reverted back to the way we’ve been playing (lately),” coach Don Brubacher said.
For most of the game, Tabor showed determination and resilience. After Tabor built a 10-6 lead early in the half, Wesleyan went on a 17-4 run over the next six minutes to construct its largest lead of the half, 23-14.
With a pair of 3-point baskets from Andy Brubacher and one each from Grant Brubacher, Tyler Weinbrenner and Matt Nelson, Tabor had a 37-34 lead at halftime.
The second half didn’t start badly either, as Tyler Weinbrenner hit another 3-pointer and Jared Reese converted a traditional 3-point play. With 10:06 to play, the Bluejays still led, 49-48.
But, as has been the case in recent games, the Bluejays were unable to finish well, although a 3-pointer by Andy Brubacher kept Tabor in contention at 61-58 with 2:20 to play.
The turning point came when Wesleyan missed two consecutive shots but grabbed the rebound each time, enabling Jeff Baron to drain a 3-point rebuttal.
“We have to do a better job of holding them off,” Brubacher said. “That was big.”
The Coyotes went on to capitalize on late Tabor turnovers and hit timely free throws down the stretch to finish with a 10-point win.
“We had tons of turnovers in the last 10 minutes,” Brubacher said. “On the defensive end, we could not get a rebound the whole second half. It was a disaster.”
Andy Brubacher led Tabor with 12 points on 4-for-7 3-point shooting. Grant Brubacher added 11 points.
After shooting 56 percent in the first half (14-25), Tabor made only seven of 26 shots in the second half to finish at 41 percent (21-51).
“We got good looks (in the second half) but we couldn’t make them-we went cold for a significant stretch of the second half,” Brubacher said.
Marcus Faubion led KWU with 20 points; the Coyotes hit 24 of 59 (41 percent) from the field.
Tabor made 11 of 14 free throws line while Wesleyan made 19 of 26.
With the loss, Tabor fell to 11-14 overall and 8-8 in the KCAC; KWU improved to 13-11 and 9-7.
Friends-Tabor’s struggle to find an effective offense continued Thursday in a 53-50 loss to Friends.
Coach Don Brubacher was direct in his post-game analysis.
“We shoot 32 percent, they shoot 45.8 percent-that’s the game,” he said.
Friends led from start to finish, although the Falcons were never able to put the Bluejays away, thanks in part to Tabor’s gutty effort on defense.
The Falcons’ largest lead of the first half came in the final minute when Justin Speer drove a spear through Tabor’s heart with a 3-point basket with 44 seconds left in the half.
The basket extended Friends’s lead to 29-22. Tabor made only nine of 24 field goal attempts (37 percent) in the opening 20 minutes.
The second half produced more of the same as the Falcons built an 11-point lead, 38-27, with 13:19 remaining.
But the Bluejays battled back behind the gritty play of Grant Brubacher and Brad Gattis, plus a 3-point basket by Andy Brubacher.
When Matt Nelson hit one of two free throws with 4:09 to play, Tabor was within three, 44-41. Friends then reconstructed a seven-point lead with 2:56 to play.
Although unable to drain its 3-point shots down the stretch, Tabor remained in contention at 53-50 with 0.3 seconds left.
Grant Brubacher and Gattis each scored 10 points for Tabor; Gattis added a team-high 18 rebounds.
Greg Carrell and Bryan Ross each scored 11 to lead the Falcons.<Although Tabor outscored Friends from the free-throw line, 9-6, out-rebounded the Falcons, 43-32, outscored the Falcons from the 3-point line, 15-9, had more second-chance points, 15-11, and better bench production, 20-28, the Bluejays' low field goal percentage led to their fourth consecutive defeat. Both teams were consistently bad from the free throw line. Tabor made nine of 16 and Friends six of 16.
Coming-Tabor heads to Leavenworth to face the winless Saint Mary Spires on Thursday before concluding the regular season at home on Saturday, hosting Bethel.