ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ANDREW OTTOSON
The Tabor College men’s basketball team dropped games to the top two teams in the KCAC last week.
On Thursday, the Bluejays lost to conference-leader Kansas Wesleyan 66-62, then dropped a 69-55 game to second-place Friends on Saturday.
“We’ve had trouble maintaining our mental focus and a reasonable level of effort on the basketball court during Saturday night games all season long,” coach Don Brubacher said.
“Kansas Wesleyan was one of our better efforts of the year…. But tonight (against Friends) we had no energy at all.”
Friends-Tabor spent most of the early going overcoming a deficit only to lose control of the home game in the final five minutes of the first half.
The half ended with Friends leading 33-21. The Bluejays home team fell behind 5-0 in the first 2:50 of action, but bounced back with an 11-2 run capped off with a Kyle Kroeker 3-pointer.
Friends responded with a 13-2 run aided by an administrative technical foul whistled against Tabor. After the technical, the rest of Tabor’s first-half points were scored at the free-throw line.
Over the next 1:21, Tabor rallied to cut the deficit to 20-16 with 5:49 left. A 13-5 run by Friends left Tabor trailing by 12 at halftime.
The backbreaking run was keyed by a pair of 3-pointers by Justin Speer and another by Justin Rone-and all three shots were assisted by Trent Barney.
The Bluejays were unable to cut into the lead in the second half, and trailed by as many as 23 points.
Tyler Weinbrenner had a team-high 13 points-most of which came off of dribble-drives to the basket that generated tough lay-ins and free throws.
Greg Munroe scored 11 points-including a 7-for-10 effort from the foul line-and pulled down a game-high nine rebounds.
As a team, Tabor made five of 21 shots in the first half and 16 of 48 for the game.
“We shot the ball poorly, but no one gets good shots when the team plays slowly at the offensive end,” Brubacher said.
Friends had four players in double-figures, led by Speer. Rone, Josh Urban and Greg Carrell each added 14.
Kansas Wesleyan-Tabor gave the Coyotes all they could handle in both halves of Thursday’s 66-62 road loss.
“After a hard-fought game against Southwestern, we put ourselves in a position (against Kansas Wesleyan) to win,” coach Don Brubacher said.
The Bluejays led on-and-off in the first half. Mike Stoecker put Tabor on top 1-0 with a free throw 1:06 after the tip-off. KW took the lead on a 3-pointer 24 seconds later, but Andy Brubacher scored a layup to tie the game at 3-3.
Greg Munroe threw down a dunk 29 seconds later, and the Bluejays retook the advantage.
Brubacher dueled KW standout forward Jeff Baron shot for shot in the first half. Brubacher scored a trio of 3-pointers and each one gave Tabor the lead.
At 15:03, Brubacher’s shot turned an 8-7 deficit into a 10-8 lead. At 9:59, his shot broke a 14-14 tie, and with 7:18 left he put the Bluejays on top 22-19.
But Baron returned the favor, firing from a step beyond the top of the key, to put the Coyotes up 24-22 with 5:06 to go. The shot was part of a 7-0 run that gave KW a 26-22 lead.
But Tabor, behind two short-range shots by Mike Willis, closed the gap to 28-26 before the horn.
Though KW put together several runs in the second half, Tabor kept the Coyotes close, never trailing by more than seven.
Offensive bursts gave the Bluejays the lead three times down the stretch.
Tyler Weinbrenner broke a tie with a layup at 15:36 and gave Tabor a 37-35 lead. Stoecker scored consecutive layups 21 seconds apart for a 41-39 lead with 13:47 left. Kyle Kroeker scored a gutsy 2-pointer off a feed from Brubacher to make it 49-48 with 8:09 to go.
It was not until Baron drained a long 2-pointer at 5:41 that it became a two-possession game, 54-49.
Munroe powered in a 2-pointer at 3:15 that cut it to 57-55, but Baron followed with a 3-pointer. Munroe answered with a fierce dunk with 2:40 left.
After Marcus Faubion scored on a put-back at 2:10, Munroe answered with a tip-in, making it 62-59 with 1:03 to play.
The Coyotes consumed the entire shot clock on their possession and the Bluejays defended them into an awkward heave as time ran out. But Baron made the play of the game when he crashed the offensive glass and scored.
Willis appeared to have a bead on the rebound, but was wiped out in a collision, and the officials had already put their whistles away for the night.
Tabor trailed only 64-59 with 29 seconds to go, but did not find the net during its possession.
If the window of opportunity for the Bluejays to knock off the Coyotes had closed when Trey Sims grabbed the loose ball, Tabor refused to acknowledge it.
It took Willis a few whacks before he was whistled, but was finally called for fouling Sims with 13 seconds left. Sims, probably thought he had sealed the game when he made pair of free throws. But Brubacher drilled his fifth 3-pointer of the night with six seconds remaining.
Tabor denied KW all avenues on the ensuing attempt at an inbounds play save one-a last-second lob that was run down by KW guard Josh Berry at the far free-throw line. Berry dribbled out the rest of the clock.
Baron finished with 27 points to lead all scorers. Brubacher scored 21, Munroe totaled 12 and Stoecker had 11.