The Bluejays (8-6) are one game ahead of McPherson (7-7).
Saint Mary?Damon Dechant and Zack Vanselow both fouled out as Tabor struggled to slow down the Spires triumvirate of Winston Frazier (17 points), Mike Sylvara (18) and Carvelle Taylor (21), who combined to score five 3-pointers and 23 free throws.
?We played extremely hard, but we had too many turnovers and missed too many free throws?two things that you must not do on the road,? Ratzlaff said. ?Our bigs got into some foul trouble which kept us from being able to be really aggressive on the block and we had some mental errors on the defensive end that really hurt us down the stretch.?
Saint Mary outscored the Bluejays 43-37 in the first half, and clung to the lead throughout the second half. After trailing by double-figures, the Bluejays cut the Spires lead to one late in the game, but could not complete the comeback.
Ratzlaff gave the Spires? offense its due: ?They can really shoot the basketball and they will make you pay for any mistakes,? he said. ?It was a lot closer than the score.?
Tabor put four players in double-figures: Kyle de Blonk (14), Kyle Kroeker (13), Jared Hett (10) and Orson Thomas (10).
Friends?Zack Vanselow and Damon Dechant powered the Bluejays offense, which shot 54 percent from the field.
But it was Kyle Kroeker’s 3-for-6 night from the 3-point line that finally put the Bluejays, who trailed much of the night, in the lead for good. Kroeker?s trey from the top of the key made it 59-58 with 7:35 to go, and the Bluejays did not trail afterward.
Tabor jumped out to a 5-0 lead on Kroeker’s triple 1:29 into the contest, but Friends took over at 15:22 of the first half and held on throughout the middle minutes of the game.
Kroeker briefly tied it with a 3-pointer with 6:47 left in the first, but the Falcons used hot 3-point shooting of their own to open up a 34-30 halftime lead.
Friends shot 6-for-9 from distance in the first half and continued the hot streak into the second period, knocking down nine of their first 11 shots after the intermission.
?I felt like they came out a little more aggressive that we did for the first 10 minutes which set the tone for the first half,? Ratzlaff said. ?It didn’t look much better at the beginning of the second half until the second unit came in and saved the day.?
Led by Lance Baar, Mike Rousell and Seth Hardiman, the Bluejays second unit committed a few fouls and established a less permissive tone around the Tabor basket. Then, having dulled the Falcons’ offense, Hardiman and Rousell worked the ball into the post, setting up a layup-and-1 for Dechant and three good looks for Baar.
?Lance Barr was fantastic on the offensive and defensive glass,? Ratzlaff said. ?He also finished well, which is something we have been working on.?
Jared Hett hit a 3-pointer set up by Hardiman, and Baar’s tip-drill layup cut what had been a 10 point deficit down to a single point, 53-52.
?(The second unit) really gave us a spark when we desperately needed it,? Ratzlaff said. ?They seemed to give our starters a bit of confidence because the rest of the game was a poised Tabor team finishing the game by knocking down shots and getting stops.?
Vanselow reentered and promptly scored, setting the stage for Kroeker’s lead-changing shot. Dechant followed with a 2-pointer to make Tabor?s lead 63-60 with 3:56 to go.
Friends replied stylishly, as Brandon Graber’s alley-oop lob found Mike Hyde for a 2-handed dunk?but Kyle de Blonk responded for the Bluejays, scoring a tough layup off the dribble to make it 65-62 with 2:35 left.
With defensive intensity oozing out of every pore, both offenses sputtered to the finish line. Tabor committed back-to-back turnovers?a shot clock violation and a travel?after allowing only one giveaway after halftime.
But unlike the first half, in which Friends punished 13 turnovers with 13 points, the Falcons failed to find the net until the final minute.
Tyler Thompson’s layup cut it to one, but Dechant buried the Falcons hopes of an upset under two made free throws.
Friends set up three looks at a last-ditch 3-pointer in the final 20 seconds, one of which was voided when de Blonk committed a foul away from the ball in transition. The other two triple-tries missed badly.
Vanselow led Tabor with 17 points, Dechant scored 14 and Kroeker scored 11. Graber’s 19 points set the Falcons high.
Coming?Tabor (13-10 overall) meets bottom-dwelling Bethel (3-20, 1-11 KCAC) Thursday in Hillsboro. The Bluejays host Sterling for Saturday?s senior night, and are encouraging those who will attend to wear pink in support of Tabor?s Cancer Awareness Night.