The Tabor men nearly upset No. 1-seeded McPherson College on the road in Saturday?s KCAC semifinals, but a 3-point shot at the buzzer bounced out to end the Bluejays? season.
The loss followed a victory over Southwestern College in the quarterfinal round Thurs?day.
The Bluejays end their season with a 15-16 overall record and a fourth-place finish in the KCAC at 10-8.
?It has been a roller-coaster year with injuries and different lineups,? coach Micah Ratzlaff said. ?The thing that saved us and kept us competitive is that we had a very smart basketball team that was able to change game plans week by week.
?This is extremely difficult to do and this team made a nice run down the stretch.?
McPherson?Tabor didn?t concede a loss to the regular-season champion Bulldogs until the final shot bounced off the rim.
?The guys played their hearts out and left everything on the floor,? coach Micah Ratzlaff said. ?This was one of the most exciting games I have had the chance to be a part of.
?I really thought that last shot was going in, but at the end of the day I could not be more proud of our basketball team.?
Tabor battled back from a nine-point halftime deficit to tie the game, then swapped leads with the Bulldogs multiple times as the clock wound down.
But blocked shots, momentum-swinging calls and missed opportunities in the final minutes cost the Bluejays a bid at the championship.
Gavin Serene closed his senior year with a team-high 22-point performance. Serene came out of the gate blazing hot, putting up all 11 of Tabor?s points in the first 6:20, including two buckets from beyond the arc.
McPherson and Tabor duked it out through much of the first half, with the Jays keeping the Bulldogs within two possessions. But the Bulldogs hit back-to-back three-pointers at 5:25 and 3:44 to give them their first double-digit lead.
McPherson led by nine at halftime, 35-26.
In the second half, Michael Janzen hit two baskets to pull the Bluejays to within 35-30, but two turnovers in the lane gave the ball back to McPherson.
Play heated up when Lawson Kingsley nailed a 3-pointer at 14:31 to bring the Jays within two points. Tabor would draw within a basket twice more before Janzen tipped in a Kingsley bucket to tie the game, 44-44, with 9:45 to play.
McPherson took the lead again moments later, but Tabor came back with a strong offensive effort to tie the game five more times in the next three minutes of play time.
The Bluejays finally seized the lead at 6:23 when Janzen drained a 3-point shot?Tabor?s third in four minutes, to make it 57-55.
Kingsley hit another 3-pointer at 2:16 for Tabor?s largest lead of the game, 62-58. But McPherson rallied to tie it twice more as the clock ran down. With 30 seconds left, the Bulldogs swished a 3-pointer for a two-point lead. They then blocked Kyle Wallace?s layup with seconds remaining to regain possession.
Hope seemed lost for Tabor, but Ryan Chippeaux?s long arms knocked a McPherson pass out of bounds. But Kingsley?s 3-point shot at the buzzer bounced away, and the Bulldogs escaped with the win.
In addition to Serene?s 22 points, Kingsley and Janzen added 11.
Southwestern?It might not have been pretty, but Tabor took care of business Thursday with a 62-54 home win over South?western in the quarterfinals.
The Bluejays? future did not look bright in the first 12:30 of play, as Southwestern established a 25-13 lead. The Builders allowed the Jays just six points inside, forcing them to resort to riskier shots from the perimeter.
Tabor finally found an offensive groove at the 7:00 mark when Lawson Kingsley and Michael Janzen nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to bring the Jays within six points. Tabor went on to outscore the Builders, 11-8, in the remainder of the half to trail Southwestern, 35-30.
The Builders scored six points at the start of the second half, but the tables would turn at 17:25 when Ryan Chippeaux, who was uncharacteristically scoreless in the first half, slammed home a dunk to ignite a 15-0 scoring burst from the Bluejays over the next three minutes.
Gavin Serene, Cody Arnold and Michael Janzen each drained a 3-pointer.
Southwestern made a succession of free throws to stay within 10 points of Tabor, but the Bluejays stood strong on defense, out-rebounding the Builders and making shots to keep a narrow lead.
The Builders hit a 3-pointer to make it 56-52 with one minute to play, but Phillip Jimenez stalled the effort with a driving layup and Arnold and Kingsley closed the game at the free-throw line for the eight-point win.
Gavin Serene led the Bluejays in scoring with 15 points. Chippeaux registered another double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.