Two nights after the Tabor College men’s basketball team demolished highly-touted Sterling, the Bluejays fumbled away a game they controlled for 30 minutes. The final score was 72-68. Bethel trailed from the first moments until Trey Ronnebaum’s foul shots with 9:39 to go. From there, the Threshers opened up an eight point lead before Tabor coupled its 3-point shooting skill with an adequate level of intensity inside the arc?a combination that proved decisive at Sterling, but went missing for nine minutes of the second half Saturday. But in the final minute, Kyle Kroeker brought the Bluejays to the brink of victory with two 3-point shots.
Down by six after Ronnebaum answered the first of Kroeker’s treys with a free throw, Tabor closed the gap to 69=65 on Dan Hann’s tip-in basket. Then Bethel nearly cracked, first turning it over on the ensuing inbounds and then failing to account for Kroeker on the Bluejays’ set play. But the Threshers, leading 69-68 with 11 seconds left, successfully inbounded to John Watson on their next set play?and Watson drained both double bonus free throws for a three point lead. After a clock error cost Tabor three precious seconds on their first attempt at the inbounds, the Bluejays needed to create a 3-pointer in seven seconds or less?and Bethel hacked Damon Dechant to prevent that possibility.
Dechant was all but unguardable in the first half, as he saddled Justin Schneider with three quick fouls while scoring nine points on five shots. He finished with 18 points on 11 field goal attempts. Kroeker totaled 20 points including a 4-for-8 night from the 3-point arc. Ronnebaum led all scorers with 21; Watson ended with 18 and Matt Regier added 11 for Bethel.
Tabor had just five turnovers in the first half, but committed 10 giveaways in the second half. The Bluejay guards were plagued by foul trouble and injury; starter Jason Hett played 10 minutes in the first half, but was limited to 12 in the contest after he sustained an apparent lower body injury during an awkward scramble for a loose ball.
The Bluejays also came within an eyelash of victory in the women’s game. On the strength of Gina Hullet’s 22 points, Tabor overcame a 12-point deficit to take a short-lived lead 10 seconds left. But Hannah Blackburn, scorer of 17, countered Andrea Robinson’s late free throw with two of her own to give Bethel a 54-53 win.
Hullet scored 16 points in the second half but none under greater pressure than the tying basket, which came in the wake of a Threshers backcourt violation. When Bethel committed a turnover on the subsequent possession, the pressure evidently cracked Angela Wood, who inexplicably hacked Robinson 60 feet from the Bluejays basket with the score knotted at 52. Blackburn bailed her teammate out by attacking the basket?just as she had done throughout.
Jessica Muckenthaler scored 14 points in the first half and finished with 18 for Bethel; apart from Hullet no Bluejay finished with more than six points. Tabor was outscored 19-9 at the foul line.
The men’s team next plays Monday at Fort Hays State; both teams will host McPherson Dec. 10 and finish off the 2009 portion of the schedule with a Dec 12 visit to Ottawa.