The Tabor Bluejays battled and won a hard-fought contest tonight against Friends University, 75-66, completing a Bluejays sweep of the Falcons.
?We came out extremely hard on the defensive end, which set the tone,? said Bluejays coach Micah Ratzlaff. ?This team is built around defense and taking care of the basketball.?
Tabor started out the game with a strong three-pointer from Phillip Jimenez, making the score 3-2. A couple minutes later a dunk from the Bluejays? Damon Dechant tied the game at 5-5 with 15:46 left in the half.
The Bluejays began to pull ahead, extending their lead to 10 points, 17-7, thanks to a three-point shot from Max Frise with 13:15 left in the half.
With a little under 10 minutes left in the half, the Bluejays? Lawson Kingsley sank a three-pointer that was matched 40 seconds later by a three-point shot from the Falcons? Brett Steven. Bluejays? player Kyle Wallace hit another three-pointer to make the score 27-14 with 7:20 left in the half.
The Bluejays continued to extend their lead as the clock wound down, making it 39-20 with a little under three minutes left in the half. However, the Falcons? Reggie Britton staged a nearly one-man comeback with 2:39 left. He went on a nine-point scoring run, including two back-to-back three-pointers.
Kingsley made another long three-point shot with 38 seconds left on the clock to give the Bluejays a 42-31 lead. Three Falcon free throws later, the Bluejays went into the locker room at half-time with an eight-point lead, 42-34.
The Bluejays began to struggle a little in the beginning of the second half, letting the Falcons take back the lead, 44-43, on a pass play that put the ball in the hands of Britton. However, another important three-pointer from the Bluejays? Wallace gave them back the lead, 47-45, with a little under 15 minutes left in the game. A Falcons three-point shot gave them back the lead, 48-47, with 13 minutes remaining.
A Bluejays free throw tied the game at 50-50, then a Falcons pass set up the dunk for Frise, making the score 52-50. Not to be outdone, the Bluejays? Kingsley drove toward the basket and shot backwards up over his left shoulder, tying the game at 52-52 with 10:17 left. Three minutes later the game was tied again at 54-54.
Dechant gave the lead to the Bluejays with a dramatic dunk with a little over six minutes left to play. Another dunk by Frise a minute later gave the Bluejays a two-point lead over the Falcons, 58-56. The game was tied twice more, 58-58 and 60-60, in the next two minutes of play time.
Despite shaky free throw shooting at the beginning of the second half, the Bluejays began to make key free throws as the clock ticked down. Two free throws from Ryan Chippeaux with 2:19 left gave the Bluejays a four-point lead, 64-60, and continued success at the line helped the Bluejays to begin to pull away. The Bluejays made 10 points off of free throws in the last minute and a half of the game, giving them an eight-point lead with just seconds left.
A dunk at the buzzer from Chippeaux gave the Bluejays the final score for the game, 75-66.
?We?ve been struggling all year long at the free throw line,? said coach Ratzlaff, commenting on the Bluejays? second-half struggles at the line. ?We?ll keep practicing.?
He also said he thought the players started to focus a bit better as the second half went on, and that ?the points started to mean more as the clock wound down.?
The Bluejays may take a couple days rest, but they will be back on the court soon, practicing for Thursday?s game against conference opponent Bethany College.
?We?re happy to be at the top of the conference,? coach Ratzlaff said. ?But we have to keep pushing.?
The Bluejays had four players in the double digits; Dylan Clark-Kaneable and Frise both had 10 points, Dechant had 13 points, and Kingsley led the Bluejays with 15 points.