Bluejays fall just short of upset at McPherson in KCAC semi-finals

The Tabor men gave No. 1-seeded McPherson a run for their money in tonight’s KCAC semi-final game, not conceding the 68-66 loss until the final moments when a 3-point  buzzer shot bounced out and ended the Bluejays’ season. Tabor battled back from a nine-point halftime deficit to tie the game multiple times and swap leads with the Bulldogs multiple times as the clock wound down. But ultimately blocked shots, momentum-swinging calls and missed opportunities in the final minutes cost the Bluejays a bid at the championship. 

The Bluejays finish their season with a 15-16 record overall and were 10-8 in the conference. The Bulldogs are 29-3 and 16-2 in the KCAC. 

Hillsboro product Gavin Serene closed out his senior year with a 22-point performance to lead the Bluejays in scoring. Serene came out of the gate blazing hot, putting up all 11 of Tabor’s points in the first 6:20 of play time, including two buckets from beyond the arc. 

McPherson and Tabor duked it out through much of the first half, with the Jays keeping the Bulldogs within two possessions. But the ‘Dogs hit back-to-back three-pointers at 5:25 and 3:44 to give them their first double-digit lead. 

Tabor narrowed it to nine points at 1:44, but key calls in the final seconds stalled the Bluejay comeback and allowing McPherson to go into the locker room with a 35-26 lead. 

Prospects looked questionable for the Bluejays, as they faced a nine-point deficit against a high-powered McPherson offense going into the second half. But a senior-heavy team wasn’t ready to go home just yet. 

Michael Janzen hit two baskets inside to make it 35-30, but Ryan Chippeaux missed two passes inside to give the ball back to McPherson twice in the first three minutes. 

Play really heated up when Lawson Kingsley nailed a 3-pointer at 14:31 to bring the Jays within two points. Tabor would draw within a basket twice more before Janzen tipped in a Kingsley bucket to tie the game, 44-44, at 9:45.

McPherson took the lead again moments later, but Tabor came back with a strong offensive effort to tie the game five more times in the next three minutes of play time. The Bluejays finally seized the lead at 6:23 when Janzen drained a 3-point shot, Tabor’s third in four minutes, to make it 57-55. 

Kingsley would hit another basket from 3-point range at 2:16 for Tabor’s largest lead of the game, 62-58, but McPherson rallied to tie it twice more as the clock ran down. With 30 seconds left the Bulldogs swished a 3-pointer for the two-point lead. They then blocked Kyle Wallace’s layup with seconds remaining to take the ball back.

Hope seemed lost for Tabor, but Chippeaux’s long arms would give the Jays one more chance, as he forced McPherson to knock a pass out of bounds. But Kingsley’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer bounced out, and the Bulldogs escaped with the win. 

In addition to Serene’s 22 points, including nine from beyond the arc, Kingsley had 11 points, with nine from 3-point range. Jimenez and Janzen chipped in nine points each.

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