Sterling sweeps season series vs. Tabor


The Sterling College men's basketball team spoiled both Aaron
Whitelaw's return to the lineup and Damon Dechant's 20-point night, using
a 41-point second half to claim a 66-52 victory
Saturday night in Hillsboro. The Sterling women steamrolled the
Bluejays 76-52. The Tabor men (9-7) ended the night in fifth place in the KCAC. The women (6-10) are caught in a 3-way tie for sixth—but are just one win ahead of ninth-place Saint Mary.

The men's team grabbed an 11-point lead on a layup-and-1 by Orson
Thomas 3:25 into the second half, but Sterling used a 12-2 run to pull
within one point on a foul shot by Chad Friess. Whitelaw answered with
a triple from the top of the key, but the first of three consecutive
3-pointers by point guard Zach Goodrich made it 44-41 with 11:00
remaining in the contest. Goodich buried two more 3-pointers, 20
seconds apart, to turn Tabor's lead into a 49-46 deficit. Tabor was not
able to retake the lead, but Whitelaw nearly tied it with a tough layup
in traffic—a play on which the senior guard was flattened by the
Sterling defense but no foul was called.

After Dechant cut the Sterling advantage to 51-50, the Warriors rattled
off eight straight points—in no small part Tabor tower of power Zack
Vanselow picked up his fourth personal foul at the conclusion of a
fast-break chance that the Warriors transition defense demolished with
the help of one too many Tabor passes. Perhaps more important than
either the missed scoring opportunity or the foul call, Whitelaw was
again belted by the Sterling defense—and had to leave the contest with
an apparent aggrevation of the injury that originally sidelined him
late in Tabor's first meeting with the Warriors.

With Whitelaw out of the game, Sterling held Tabor without a score.
Whitelaw returned to the floor with two minutes to go, setting up a
point-blank basket for Orson Thomas. Thomas nearly scored again a
moment later, as the Bluejays transition offense worked the ball to him
under the basket—but Sterling center Jonathan Woods ran the length of
the floor and caught the fast break from behind, blocking Thomas' shot
and taking a moment to taunt the Bluejays bench. Tabor did not score
afterward.

Woods' intensity at that moment no doubt grew out of the frustration
both teams exhibited toward curious officiating. Much of the anger from
both sides was queued up by a strange sequence in the first half, when
a back court violation committed by Sterling was not called—a call so
conspicuously bad that, for perhaps the first time all season, Bluejays
coach Micah Ratzlaff lost his cool and was whistled for a technical
foul. But after Goodrich made both foul shots, Sterling's bench
appeared just as dissatisfied with whatever words were offered to
explain why Tabor was awarded possession out of bounds following the
technical.

After the dust settled, it became clear that Goodrich's pair of free
throws had taken much of the luster off of Tabor's fine start—a 10-6
run that saw Vanselow score both the opening basket and an "and-1"
layup for an early 8-4 Tabor lead. Vanselow did not score again in the
first half, and Sterling took a 15-14 lead on a pair of Trenton
Stutzman free throws with 7:11 left. But with Vanselow and Kyle Kroeker
both in early foul trouble, Dechant answered the bell for the Bluejays.
He notched (in sequence) a layup, a foul-line jumper, a pair of free
throws, an assist on Whitelaw's top-of-the-arc 3-pointer, and two
highlight reel scores in the final two minutes of the first half. He
scored a layup off a 20-foot pass that Whitelaw threaded through a
needle in transition. Two possessions later, he ran the floor to finish
off a fast break started by Mike Rousell. Rousell took the ball to the
rack with a dribble drive, but could not find an opening for his own
shot—but he did find Dechant with a clever back-pass, and Dechant did
not miss the chance to up Tabor's lead to seven.

Sterling closed the gap to 27-25, entering the intermission break on a
5-0 run—a 3-point basket by Randy July, and a 2-pointer by Mac
Stephenson.

Tabor did not have a double-digit scorer other than Dechant, who fouled
out with 16 seconds left. Whitelaw tallied eight points, Thomas had
seven, and Vanselow fouled out with seven. Woods posted a 10 points, 11
boards double-double to pave the way for the Warriors. Goodrich scored
15 points, Friess had 13 and Stutzman finished with 10.

On the women's side, Sterling led 8-0 before Gina Hullet bagged
back-to-back baskets for Tabor, then ramped its lead to 10 on
back-to-back 3-pointers by Jannica Schultze and Megan Patrick. Sarah
Wyckoff twice cut the Warriors lead to eight: once with foul shots at
12:11, and again with a short jumper at 11:29. Then Kirsten Watson got
involved in the scoring with a layup and a free throw that pulled Tabor
within seven.

Patrick answered for Sterling, and Hullet countered Patrick's response
with a layup that made it 20-13, Sterling, with 10:25 left. The
Warriors outscored Tabor 19-8 heading to lead 39-21 at the break, then
upped their lead to 22 on back-to-back 3-pointers by Hillary Stuckey
and Cathryn Wiebe. It eventually reached 28 on a dunk by Ashley Gasper,
and the Warriors called off the dogs with two minutes left in the game.
The Warriors shot 56 percent from the field (59 percent from 3-point
range) and tacked on eight of 15 foul shots.

Tabor outrebounded the Warriors 39-26 and committed just 13
turnovers—but made just 18 of 57 field goal attempts. The Bluejays were
led statistically by Wyckoff with 12 points, Watson with 11 points and
Hullet with 11 rebounds.


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