Tabor men come back against Friends to advance to KCAC semifinals

Tabor stunned Friends in the KCAC quarterfinals tonight with a late comeback that gave the Bluejays the victory, 69-59. The Bluejays played on their home court in front of a loud and excited crowd.

?It wasn?t pretty still,? said coach Micah Ratzlaff. ?But, my goodness, we?ll take it.?

The Bluejays came out very strong in the first few minutes of the first half, looking like the team that contended for the top spot in the KCAC all season. Though they did not shut down the Falcons? offense, they certainly slowed it while building up a lead of their own. Tabor led Friends, 26-19, with 8:20 left in the half.

Tabor stumbled a bit toward the end of the half, though. They slowed down their scoring and let the Falcons creep back up. Friends tied the game with just under four minutes remaining, pulling ahead 32-30 a couple minutes later. The Bluejays tied it again with 50 seconds left, but a Falcons free throw put them ahead by one, 33-32, going in to the locker room.

The second half started out decently for the Bluejays, but quickly got out of hand. Few of the Bluejays? shots went in and the Falcons capitalized on the opportunity, building their lead. Tabor trailed Friends by several baskets, looking much more like the team that lost the four previous games.

The Bluejays attempted a comeback, whittling the Falcons? lead down to five with just under 11 minutes left in the game, but Friends responded by pulling further ahead. Tabor still trailed, 54-48, with a little over six minutes remaining. The Bluejays needed a miracle, even just a little one, and they got it.

Phillip Jiminez sank a three-pointer with 5:24 left on the clock, electrifying a dispirited Bluejays crowd. Just seconds later teammate Kyle Wallace drained another three-point shot from beyond the arc, tying the game 54-54 with five minutes remaining. A mere 30 seconds later, the Bluejays? Ryan Chippeaux made a basket to put Tabor ahead, 56-54.

Friends never took back the lead. Tabor came alive, playing like they did all season to extend their lead to their 10-point margin of victory.

?I kept telling myself, these guys can?t go out like this,? Ratzlaff said, referring to their late-season slump. ?We played too good of basketball for such a long time for that to happen?at the end of the year you just lose five straight and you go. This win is huge for us.?

He said the victory will keep his team excited about basketball and excited about the future, no matter what happens.

?You could tell how badly they wanted to play well again at the beginning of it,? he said. ?We knew guys would have to make plays and they did that down the stretch. The two guys who have really struggled at the three, Kyle Wallace and Phillip Jiminez, they made some really big shots.?

Ratzlaff said that once the guards took the defensive pressure off Damon Dechant, he would be able to make plays, which proved correct. Dechant led the Bluejays in scoring with 18 points.

?I love this group,? Ratzlaff said. ?They love each other, they work hard, they do things for the right reasons, so that?s always been there.?

He said he thought the Bluejays will go into their KCAC semi-final game Saturday at Sterling with some confidence, thanks to tonight?s victory.

?It?s good, it feels like we?re a little bit back on track,? Ratzlaff said.

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