Behind 24 points from David Birch and a 14 points, 21 rebounds
double-double from Phil McClintock, Ottawa shot the Tabor College men's
basketball team out of the KCAC post-season tournament by a 76-63 final
score Wednesday in Hillsboro. Tabor got 22 points from Kyle Kroeker,
but was unable to locate the post offense that boosted the Bluejays to
a 5-point win in Ottawa last week. Tabor's forwards combined for a
7-of-28 shooting night, and the Bluejays 3-point shooting was even more
anemic at 5-for-22 from the arc.
But lifted by a passionate finale from Aaron Whitelaw and Zack Vanselow's seven first-half points, the Bluejays
trailed by just four at halftime and eventually tied the game at 49-49
and 51-51. The tying run was keyed offensively by Jared Hett, who
out-dueled Birch in an exchange of 3-pointers during a 1:25 span midway
through the second half. Hett's second?a gutsy left-winger with Birch
squarely in his face?cut the Braves' lead to 49-47 with 12:12 to go.
Hett assisted on Kroeker's game-tying 2-pointer?a midrange look
developed out of an inbounds set in which Kroeker was the second cutter
through a set of screens set by the Bluejays forwards.
After McClintock restored Ottawa's lead to 51-49, Orson Thomas made
another of a multitude of high-octane plays with a dribble-drive layup that knotted it at 51-all. Thomas made his greatest impact playing above the rim during the first half?in one sequence picking two offensive rebounds out of a cloud of Ottawa "bigs" to net a lead-changing layup late in the first half.
After Thomas tied it, and with the Bluejays locking down McClintock and Birch on the perimeter,
Ottawa found an unlikely hero in Clint Brightman, who scored
back-to-back baskets to force a Tabor timeout with 9:51 to go. In dire
need of a basket and a stop, the Bluejays instead frittered away one
possession with an awkward 3-point try by Hett, allowed an open trey by
Braves reserve guard DeMarcus Doucette, and endured a pair of
near-misses by Zack Vanselow. The sequence captured the essence of
Vanselow's second half, as the Tabor tower recorded two offensive rebounds in
rapid succession but could not put either point-blank shot away. He
finished with eight points on 3-for-14 shooting.
But Tabor was far from finished, as Hett stepped into a right wing trey
to cut it to 59-54. Then Whitelaw found Jordan Funk for an open basket
at the conclusion of a fast break to lift the Bluejays within a
Brightman answered for Ottawa again, then the Bluejays committed a
turnover that Whitelaw mopped up with superior transition defense. As
Isaac Johnston tried to dribble to the basket on the fast break,
Whitelaw cut him off, then forced Johnston's attempted layup off of the
bottom corner of the backboard. But Ottawa regained possession with an
offensive rebound and whistled for time to draw up a play for Birch
with 4:29 to go.
Birch finished off a dribble-drive (and all but ended Tabor's night) with
one of his patented wild "and-1" layups. Though he missed the free
throw, his layup on the subsequent possession put Tabor in a 9-point
hole with 3:47 to go. The Bluejays were outscored 10-3 the rest of the
Brightman finished with 10 points and Braves' center Jacob Carter
scored 11 points alongside a 18 minutes worth of effective defense in
Hett finished with 11 points, and Damon Dechant scored 10 along with
eight rebounds and two blocks. Vanselow scored 8 points and Thomas
scored 7 points along with nine rebounds and two blocks.