The Tabor men knocked down a convincing win tonight over Bethany College, defeating the Swedes 69-55 at home and keeping the Bluejays tied with St. Mary for the top spot in the conference.
?I felt like the entire team stepped up tonight,? said Bluejays coach Micah Ratzlaff. ?These guys play together and they play hard and they play for each other, so when they do that, they?re special.?
The Bluejays scored first in the ball game, with Damon Dechant making the first of many points to put the Bluejays on top, 2-0. The Bluejays? Vincent Ferguson hit a long three-pointer with 18:16 left in the half to give them a 7-2 lead. Another three-point shot, this time from Gavin Serene of the Bluejays, put them ahead by seven points with just under seventeen minutes left.
The Bluejays continued to increase their lead in the second part of the first half, going on an eight-point scoring spree. Michael Janzen drove in to the basket for a layup with thirteen minutes left and Max Frise made another basket off an assist from Serene. A free throw gave the Swedes one more point on the board, and then a pass play from Frise to Janzen put up more Bluejay points to make the score 21-7.
With just over seven minutes left in the half, the Swedes staged a comeback and drew within just four points, 25-21, but Lawson Kingsley hit a three-pointer to widen the gap for the Bluejays. Colton Grove of the Swedes found the basket for two points with 23 seconds left, to make the score 38-29 as both teams headed into the locker room.
The Bluejays continued to hang onto their lead as they came back onto the court, earning baskets inside and making layups to keep a comfortable margin. Dechant made a basket on a spin move with 12 minutes left, raising the score to 48-37. A rash of fouls and resulting free throws hit both teams with around seven minutes remaining, with the Swedes hitting four of four to put more points on the board and the Bluejays hitting one to put the score at 57-46.
Frise drove to the basket with six minutes left to extend the Bluejays? lead to 13 points, but Austin Evans of the Swedes responded with a three-point shot to again narrow the lead. Aaron Magee scored back-to-back for the Bluejays, making the score 65-54, and then Ryan Chippeaux powered in to the basket for another two points.
For the closing touch for the Bluejays, Kyle Wallace hit two free throws with 38 seconds left to make the final score for the game 69-55.
?I just felt like our guards were really really good defensively tonight,? coach Ratzlaff said. ?As a team they played well, but I thought it started with our guards and trickled down. I thought our guards played well off the bench also.? He also mentioned he thought his team responded well and stayed aggressive despite a challenging Bethany College zone defense.
?Damon?s not even close to 100 percent yet,? coach Ratzlaff said, referring to Dechant who returned Saturday after sitting out due to injury and who scored in the double digits tonight. ?He?s got the ability to dominate.?
Dechant had 14 points on the night, tying with Dylan Clark-Kaneable, the other Bluejays player in double digits. Haydon Parks was the only Swedes player in double digits, with 15 points.
Coach Ratzlaff said the win sets up a huge game on Saturday at St. Mary?s.
?It?s still just a game,? he said, ?but it?s the top two teams in the conference and we?re on the road, so we?ll see what we?re made of.?