The top-seeded Tabor College men struggled to contain a red-hot Friends offense in Saturday?s KCAC tournament semifinal loss. Aided by 67 percent shooting from the field (30-45), the No. 4 Falcons pulled off a 10-point upset, 89-79.
Friends put Tabor on its heels from the start, going 6-for-6 from the floor?including four threes?in the first five minutes. By the time the game?s leading scorer, Toby Baxter, reached 10 points for the game, Friends held a 19-6 lead.
With Friends continuing to shoot lights out, the Falcons built their lead to 23-8 at the 12:42 mark. Dewayne Biggs hit a three after that, and Biggs contributed 10 points to a 14-7 Bluejay run that closed the gap to 28-22 with 8:38 left in the half.
The Falcons stretched the lead to 35-22 with a run of seven. With tensions rising on both sides, Lance Carter scored in transition, then Justin Malan drained a three that energized the crowd and brought the Bluejays within 35-27.
Tabor trailed, 38-30, with 4:50 left before halftime, but the Falcons ended the half with a 12-6 run to lead, 50-36, at intermission.
By halftime, Baxter had tallied 24 points, and the Falcons enjoyed 67-percent shooting from the field (18-27). Tabor, meanwhile, shot 48 percent in the first half (14-29).
Tabor switched to a zone after the break and took advantage of a few Falcon turnovers, all of which helped contribute to a 13-4 run that culminated in a one-handed slam by Andrew Thomas that brought the crowd to its feet and the score within five, 54-49. The Bluejays continued to chip away at the lead, and by the time JT Nemit hit a three and Biggs followed with a basket and a pair of free throws, Tabor was within 60-58.
Baxter scored his first points of the second half by draining a three, but Biggs fired back with a trey of his own to keep the margin at two. But Friends? Brett Williams made two threes in a 30-second span to extend the lead to 69-63.
Tabor drew within two one final time, 71-69, with 8:29 to play, but again Baxter responded by hitting a three. The Bluejays trailed 75-71 after Thomas scored at 6:41, but that was the closest Tabor got as Friends burst to the finish by outscoring Tabor 14-8.
Baxter led all scorers with 35 points on 13-for-14 shooting from the field, including 4-for-4 from beyond the arc.
Biggs led Tabor with 19 points. Carter and Thomas each had a double-double performance. Carter tallied 17 points and 10 assists, while Thomas scored 15 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Nemit added 11 points.
Tabor shot 51 percent from the field (29-57), including 42 percent from three (11-26).
With the win, Friends advances to face No. 6 Sterling in the championship game Monday. The Warriors defeated No. 2 Saint Mary, 65-64, in the semifinals.
Coming?Tabor will now turn its attention to the NAIA national tournament opening round, having earned an automatic bid by winning the KCAC regular season title.