The Tabor College men got off to a solid start and were never seriously threatened on the way to a 98-65 home win over Bethany on Saturday.
Tabor’s Jordan Horstick hit a 3-pointer to begin the scoring, but Bethany kept pace. With Tabor leading 15-12 at the 13:47 mark, Kyle Baker hit a 2-point basket and back-to-back 3-pointers over a 42 second stretch to give Tabor a 23-14 lead.
Tabor was leading 45-30 and appeared to be gliding into a comfortable halftime lead, but Bethany got a 2-point basket by Michael Simpson and 3-point baskets by Isiah Saenz and Thomas Hood in final 77 seconds to narrow the lead to 45-38.
In the second half, Tabor regained its double-digit lead when DeShun Patterson hit a 3-pointer to put Tabor ahead, 50-40, with 17:31 to play. After Bethany scored twice, the Bluejays went on a 14-8 surge over a 3:17 stretch for a 64-48 lead.
Tabor took command of the game from that point, outscoring the Swedes 34-17 down the home stretch to complete the 33-point margin of victory.
The Bluejays nearly doubled Bethany’s scoring in the second half, 53-27.
Julian Winton led Tabor with 21 points, Horstick tossed in 16 and Baker added 11. Saenz led Bethany with 23 points and Thomas Hood added 13.
As a team, Tabor shot 55 percent (18-39) from the floor while Bethany made 34 percent (11-30) of its shots. The Bluejays made 14 of 24 3-point shots (58 percent) while Bethany made seven of 33 (21 percent).
Coach Micah Ratzlaff said he was pleased with his team performance. Beyond a solid shooting night, Tabor out-rebounded the Swedes 32-24.
With the win, Tabor moved into a four-way tie for second place in the KCAC with Kansas Wesleyan, Saint Mary and Ottawa all at 5-2. The Bluejays improved their season record to 6-5 while Bethany dropped to 2-5 and 5-9.
University of Saint Mary—Tabor struggled to find continuity against the second-place team in the KCAC, but the Bluejays came together as a team in the final 9 minutes to send USM home with an 85-76 defeat on Wednesday.
Coming in as the underdog, sixth-place Tabor could have folded when the Spires opened the game with a 10-4 burst. But the Bluejays knew they had the talent to compete with anyone, and did so all night long.
At times it wasn’t pretty. Tabor nipped at the Spires’ heels for most of the game, finally tying the score at 19 on a basket by Alex Arnold with 10:50 left in the first half. The Bluejays took the lead, 23-20, on back-to-back baskets by Travell Robinson and Julian Winton, the latter with 9:37 left in the half.
It appeared the seesaw battle would continue all the way until halftime, but when USM’s Payton Meek scored with 1:56 left, the Spires launched an 8-1 burst that gave them a 47-40 lead heading into intermission.
Tabor rallied as the second half began, but USM pushed its lead to 62-53. When Winton scored a fast-break layup to narrow the lead to 62-55, Coach Micah Ratzlaff called a timeout with 9:14 left.
Coming out of the timeout, Tabor seemed to recommit itself to winning the game, not just playing close. When Jordan Horstick scored on a put-back, Tabor inched in front, 71-69.
At that point, USM called a timeout, but it made little difference. Tabor had the momentum and used strong team play to outscore the Spires, 14-7, for the come-from-behind victory.
Ratzlaff said he had a simple message for his team during the pivotal timeout: “I thought at halftime, here’s an adjustment we’re going to make: We have to play harder,” he said. “I told the guys the zone (defense) was a change, but it wasn’t the zone that did it. It was the intensity, the communication.”
Five Bluejays reached double-figure scoring: Winton led with 17, Jon Manjon Beristain added 16, Horstick and Patterson each scored 12 and Arnold chipped in 11.
Tabor outshot USM from the floor, 57 percent (31-54) to 48 percent (27-56), and from behind the arc, 44 percent (4-9) to 33 percent (9-27). Tabor’s potential Achilles heel was the free-throw line, where the Bluejays made only 19 of 33 attempts.
“We could have played a lot better,” Ratzlaff said. “Free throws were awful, but down the stretch they were decent. I’m pleased with the win.”