With two regular-season games still to play, the Tabor College men’s basketball team secured its third-consecutive regular season title with a win over Bethany Saturday night.
At 17-3, the KCAC-leading Bluejays hold a two-game lead over York, with whom Tabor holds the tiebreaker.
Bethany—Tabor used a dominating second-half performance to defeat the Swedes, 98-80, Saturday.
The Bluejays shot the ball well, finishing just under 52 percent from the field for the game (40-for-77).
After Tabor took an early, 6-2, lead, Bethany outscored the Bluejays, 11-2 in a 2:31 span to build its largest lead of the night, 13-8.
The teams battled to an 18-18 tie, then DeShun Patterson scored to ignite a 10-0 Bluejay run capped by Jordan Horstick’s transition basket with 5:31 left in the half.
Bethany narrowed the gap to four a few times after that, and Tabor led, 38-34, at halftime.
The Swedes outscored Tabor, 7-2, in the first two minutes of the second half to lead, 41-40. Alan Urrutia drained the first of his three second-half three-pointers to put Tabor in front. Bethany led by two a few times, the final at 48-46. Then Lance Carter made two free-throws to tie the game, and Urrutia drained his second trey to put Tabor in front for good.
Julian Winton later scored six points in a row, including two baskets in transition and a pair of free throws to extend Tabor’s lead to 10, 61-51.
Patterson threw down the first of two alley-oop dunks with 11:12 to play off an assist by Carter. That lit the fuse as Tabor went on a 15-3 run after that. Carter found Patterson for a second alley-oop less than two minutes later, and by the time Carter made a trey and two free-throws, Tabor was in front, 78-58, with 8:25 left in the game.
Tabor enjoyed its largest lead, 93-69, when Winton made a trey with 3:44 to go, and coach Micah Ratzlaff cleared his bench en route to the 18-point win.
“Down the stretch, I thought we played really good defense, made it really tough on them,” Ratzlaff said. “The second half was better offensively, and we’ve been looking for that.”
Carter led the Bluejay scoring effort with 22 points. Winton scored 14, Tullio Parry 12 to add to his 13 rebounds, Urrutia 11 and Cody May 10.
Southwestern—Tabor suffered a 90-79 defeat on the road Thursday.
The Bluejays led by five a few times in the game’s first three minutes, the final time being 9-4 after Davaghndre Jones scored in the paint. Southwestern scored eight unanswered after that before Julian Winton recorded two steals that led to two baskets in a 22-second span to put Tabor in front, 13-12. Six consecutive ‘Builder points put Southwestern up by five, then Tabor scored the next six to lead, 19-18.
The Bluejays held what would be their final lead, 27-26, after Jonathan Gibson made two free-throws with 7:48 left in the half. An 11-2 Southwestern run over the next 4:04 put the home team in front by eight, 37-29. Alan Urrutia hit a three-pointer with two seconds left in the half to trim an eight-point deficit to five at intermission, 46-41.
Three three-pointers keyed a 13-4 Moundbuilder run in the first three minutes of the second half, leading to a 14-point Bluejay deficit, 59-45. Tullio Parry drained a trey after that to ignite a 12-0 run that closed the gap to 59-56 after Jones scored at the 13:48 mark. But Tabor never could regain an advantage. The Bluejays drew within 72-70 with 6:36 left in the game, then missed five of their next six attempts, allowing Southwestern to regain a double-digit lead, 84-74.
The closest Tabor got after that was within six, 85-79. Southwestern scored the final five points of the game at the charity stripe.
The Bluejays made just 27 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc (9-for-34) and struggled to find a rhythm against Southwestern’s zone.
“(Their zone) made things messy for us offensively, and they hit some really big shots,” coach Micah Ratzlaff said. “We didn’t guard real well at times. We’d get down eight, nine, got it within two, and we just weren’t able to get in any type of a groove.”
Julian Winton led Tabor’s scoring effort with 22 points. Davaghndre Jones scored 21, and Cody May 11.
Coming—Tabor will conclude the regular season this week. The Bluejays will travel to Kansas Wesleyan (8-12, 12-16) Thursday for an 8 p.m. game and will host Oklahoma Wesleyan (9-11, 12-15) Saturday at 7 p.m.
As winners of the regular season, Tabor will advance to the NAIA Division II national championship tournament for the fourth-consecutive year.
The national championship will take place March 8-14 in Point Lookout, Mo.