TC splits regular season finale at Bethany

The Tabor College men's basketball team closed out the regular season
with an 82-67 win at Bethany Saturday. The Bluejays finished with an
11-7 conference record, good for sole possession of fourth place in the
season standings. Should Tabor indeed be seeded fourth when the
conference tournament brackets are announced Sunday, the Bluejays will
have home court advantage in the quarterfinal round.

The regular season finale held a particularly sweet aftertaste, as
Tabor shot 48 percent from the field while holding Bethany to 31
percent for the night. The Swede offense suffered a case of
defense-induced paralysis after the halftime break, making only eight
of 33 field goal attempts (24 percent). Tabor put four scorers in
double-digits: Jared Hett (18), Kyle Kroeker (15), Damon Dechant (14),
and Orson Thomas (11).

But throughout the first half and at times in the second half, Bethany
competed effectively against the Bluejays, notching a 38-36 lead on a
point-blank basket by Trey Beachum with 42 seconds left in the first
half. But the Swedes failed to locate Hett in transition, and the
Bluejays sniper did not need a second look at a spot-up 3-pointer from
the left wing side.

Having nabbed a 39=38 lead on Hett's triple, the Bluejays forced a
turnover to set up Seth Hardiman's layup ahead of the intermission

The momentum stayed with the Jays early in the second half, as Tabor
outscored Bethany 12-1 to start the period. Dechant's traditional
3-point play 4:29 into the half put Tabor up by 10, Kroeker followed
with a midrange jumper and Lance Baar capped the run with a short bank
shot following a Bethany timeout with 14:54 to go.

Seven free throws and three quick field goals allowed Bethany to close
within three, 55-52, but Tabor ramped its lead back to 10 during a
dominant stretch of scoring that included all of Jordan Funk's nine
points. Funk posted a layup-and-1 on top of two field goals and two
free throws during a 3:31 span, and the Bluejays outscored Bethany 13-8
the rest of the way.

CJ Littlejohn led Bethany with 19 points, but no other Swede shot
better than 38 percent on the night?while Bethany starters Brad Bietau
and Brandon Miller combined to miss all 14 of their non-foul shots.

The Tabor women slid into a tie for sixth place with their 61-57 loss
to Bethany Saturday, but landed the No. 6 seed in the conference
tournament. Tabor will play at Southwestern at 7 p.m. Feb. 26.

The Bluejays had no answer for Rhys Pihl, whose 14 points and 12
rebounds night grew out of an 8-5 first half that sparked the Swedes to
a 31-23 lead at the break.

Tabor's opportunities early in the second half added up to a 14-3 run
that trimmed a 17-point deficit down to six with 12:31 to go. The
Bluejays dialed the heat up another notch with a pair of Brittany Roth
layups and a Jordan Crosson jump shot that resized the Swede lead to
48-46 with 6:20 left.

But whenever tabor ripped off a good rally, Bethany hit a 3-point shot.
Jade Pihl shot down the Bluejays run with a pair of 3-pointers,
re-upping the Swede lead to six with 5:10 left.

Then came the pivotal sequence, as the Swedes retained possession after
the Tabor defense forced Amber Dunham into a jump ball, then pounded
the second opportunity into Shalice Tommerup, who buried a midrange
jumper to make it an 8-point game.

Tabor cut it back to two, 59-57, on a 3-pointer by Chelsea Malone, but
could not come up with a tying basket during the final 40 seconds.

Coming?The Tabor women visit Southwestern at 7 p.m. Thursday, while the men's team most likely hosts Ottawa at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

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