Tabor men close regular season with pair of victories

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
With the hope of gaining late-season momentum, Tabor College defeated Bethel College, 58-34, Saturday night for their second straight win.

Defense keyed the victory.

“I thought we did a good job defensively,” coach Don Brubacher said. “We were fortunate at times because they did have some open looks they missed, but overall I thought our defense was really good.”

After Tabor opened an early 8-2 lead, including six points from Brad Gattis, Bethel countered to cut Tabor’s lead to a single point, 10-9, with 12:05 left in the half.

But the Threshers couldn’t throw the ball in the proverbial ocean over the next eight minutes, scoring only two points and enabling Tabor to open a 22-11 lead with 4:25 remaining.

Bethel managed only three more points in the half. Tabor added a pair of Jared Reese free throws for a football-like 24-14 lead at halftime.

Bethel’s drought continued into the second half. In fact, the Threshers scored only two points in the first six minutes while Tabor got its offense untracked.

When Gattis scored off a Matt Nelson assist with 14:13 left in the game, Tabor had a 40-16 lead.

A Nate Owens floater off an assist by Andy Brubacher gave the Bluejays their largest lead of the night at 53-21 with 9:27 to play before Tabor cruised home with its 24-point victory.

Gattis led Tabor with 13 points in his final home-court appearance. Tyler Weinbrenner added 12 points against his former teammates.

Jimmy Charles led Bethel with six.

Tabor hit 20 of 48 shots from the field (42 percent), including a 1-for-9 effort (11 percent) from the 3-point arc. Bethel shot a frigid 22 percent (12-55), including one of 15 shots from the 3-point line.

“We just shot the ball poorly from the outside, incredibly poorly,” Brubacher said. “Every 3-point shot we took was basically unguarded. But fortunately we didn’t have to rely on our outside shooting tonight.”

Both teams committed 17 turnovers, but the difference was Tabor made the Threshers pay for their mistakes, converting them into 21 points while Bethel netted only three off of Tabor’s mistakes.

“We made too many of our own turnovers and that creates a concern for me,” Brubacher said. “But it’s not unusual when a team is struggling on the offensive end that players try to make plays that aren’t there, so you end up having more turnovers than you should because they’re trying to find offense.”

With the win, Tabor improved to 13-14 overall and 10-8 in the KCAC while Bethel fell to 9-19 and 6-12.

“I hope we’re gaining some momentum,” Brubacher said. “But we still struggled offensively in both of our recent wins and that causes some concern.”

Saint Mary- Tabor took Saint Mary’s best punch Thursday night, but came home with a 72-56 win over the Spires. The win broke the Bluejays’ five-game losing streak.

Behind a strong first-half performance, Tabor withstood Saint Mary’s comeback in the second half-and an on-court brawl-to keep the Spires winless in 17 KCAC contests.

“We played substantially better in the first half in particular,” coach Don Brubacher said. “We seemed to be focused defensively on a level that we have not seen in a while.”

That focus paid dividends as Tabor built a 36-20 lead by halftime. The Bluejays limited Saint Mary to 9-for-36 shooting in the half (25 percent) and did not send the Spires to the free-throw line.

Tabor, meanwhile, made 15 of 32 shots from the field (47 percent).

“Overall, it was the most solid half of basketball we’ve played in quite some time,” Brubacher said. “We had some offensive glitches in the first half, but we didn’t shoot the ball particularly badly.”

In the second half, the game took a nasty turn.

As Chris Metcalf attempted a shot in the lane, Saint Mary’s Leonard Lake swatted at the ball and connected with Metcalf, sending the senior to the floor with Lake right behind. Fisticuffs broke out.

“Metcalf got punched and knocked down and several Saint Mary players went after him and several of our players tried to intervene,” Brubacher said.

When the smoke cleared, Lake and teammate Tremaine Dalton were ejected for throwing punches. Matt Nelson, who suffered a punch in the kisser, was assessed a technical foul for throwing an elbow.

“We did not see any of our players do anything inappropriate,” Brubacher said. “The officials said none of our players retaliated with punches.”

But Tabor’s flow was interrupted as the Spires fought back to slice the lead to six points with just over four minutes to play.

“The second half really got ragged all the way around as we struggled in various aspects of the game,” Brubacher said. “We weren’t as consistent with our rebounding as I’d like us to be, but it’s also true that on the offensive end for Saint Mary, their strength is rebounding.”

Tabor righted the ship down the stretch for a hard-fought 72-56 victory.

Nelson led Tabor with 15 points. Grant Brubacher added 14 and Brad Gattis had 12 points and a team-high 11 rebounds.

Dalton led Saint Mary with 14.

Tabor made 23 of 52 shots from the field (44 percent) and four of 14 (29 percent) from behind the 3-point line. Saint Mary made 21 of 70 attempts (30 percent) and five of 21 (24 percent) 3-pointers.

Tabor owned the boards, 55-29. Metcalf added 10 rebounds to Gattis’s 11.

“I hope this (win) gives us some confidence, but you just don’t know,” Brubacher said. “We hope this helps us relax and become more confident in our play.”

Coming-Tabor, seeded sixth in the KCAC post-season tournament, will play at 7 p.m. Thursday in Lindsborg against the Bethany Swedes, the No. 3 seed, in quarterfinals action.

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