Tabor College earned a measure of revenge Saturday night with an 82-79 overtime victory over Oklahoma Wesleyan University, the second-place team in the KCAC.
The Eagles, ranked No. 20 in the latest NAIA poll, had defeated Tabor by 15 points in Oklahoma in early January, and it appeared early in the game that the home-court rematch might be heading a similar direction.
OKWU jumped to a 10-5 lead in the first four minutes, but Tabor maintained its poise and stayed within striking distance as the first half progressed.
By halftime, OKWU was leading, 38-30.
Tabor started the second half with a 9-2 surge to pull within 40-39 of the Eagles at the 16:40 mark.
But as the half wore on, the Eagles began to separate from the Bluejays once again, and eventually built a 64-49 with 8:38 to play.
When Diontre Cutliff sank two free throws at the 8:30 mark, Tabor began to turn the tide. Over the next six minutes, the Bluejays closed the gap to 66-65 when Cutliff drained a 3-point basket with 3:29 left.
The two teams traded scores until the game stood at 72-72 with less than a minute left. Both teams called strategic timeouts.
With three seconds left, Tabor’s Julian Winton launched the potential winning shot, only to see it bounce off the back of the rim and send the game into overtime.
The Eagles appeared to take charge in the extra period when they hit a 3-point basket and a pair of free throws for a 77-72 lead in the first 1:20.
That score held until Alan Urrutia nailed a huge 3-point basket with 1:34 remaining that narrowed the Eagles’ lead to 77-75.
When Tabor forced a 10-second call in the backcourt against OKWU, Cutliff stepped up again by drilling a 3-pointer that gave Tabor a 78-77 lead with 1:04 to play.
OKWU’s Isaac Rowe countered with a score with 33 seconds left, but DeShun Patterson responded with a 2-point basket in the lane with 21 seconds on the clock.
With Tabor leading 80-79, Urrutia drew a foul, and the senior point guard calmly nailed two critical free throws for a 82-79 lead.
OKWU’s KJ Malveau attempted a game-tying 3-point shot on an inbounds play with 6 seconds left, but a leaping DeShun Patterson deflected the ball.
The Eagles launched two more desperate 3-point shots before time ran out. Neither shot came close, leaving the Bluejays to celebrate a huge victory on Spirit Night.
“For this group, I wasn’t sure we’d ever get that winning effort,” coach Micah Ratzlaff said. “Just a feeling of being rewarded for playing hard, with a good end result to that. It’s just good to seeing guys play hard and grind it out and be tough.”
Cutliff was the scoring leader for the Bluejays with 19 points. Urrutia and Winton each added 17. As a team, Tabor shot 40 percent from the floor (31-77), which was only a tad below OKWU’s 41 percent (24-58).
Tabor had a significant advantage at the free-throw line, making 28 of 40 free throws while the visitors made nine of only 13 attempts.
The loss dropped Oklahoma Wesleyan to 13-7 and into a four-school tie for second place two games behind Southwestern.
Tabor improves to 12-8 in the KCAC and is in a two-way tie for sixth place three games behind Southwestern.
Sterling—Tabor held off a second half surge by the hometown Warriors to claim a 71-66 win Wednesday at Sterling.
The Bluejays’ 33-25 edge in the opening half provided enough margin to outlast the home team’s second half rally, but it was a wild ride to the end of the game.
Midway through the first half, the two teams were at a 14-13 standoff after Sterling’s JaMiah Windom-Haynes scored in the paint.
The lead continued to flip-flop within a one-shot margin until Alan Urrutia scored with 4:25 left for a 23-18 Tabor lead. Baskets by Jon Beristain and Julian Winton boosted the margin to 27-18 with 3:11 left.
Jordan Horstick added a pair of free throws with 17 seconds remaining for the 33-25 halftime score.
Tabor led by as many as 12 points in the second half when Winton hit a pair of charities for a 39-27 lead at the 18:08 mark.
Sterling slowly began to eat away at the deficit until Rylee Hayes put his team on top at 51-50 with a basket at 8:52. Sterling pushed its lead to 57-52 on a 3-point basket by Isaac Ostrosky at 6:06.
Tabor slowly rallied to take the lead for good at 62-61 on a pair of free-throws by Winton with 2:13 left. Urrutia followed with a basket for a 64-61 lead. But it came down to two made free throws by DeShun Patterson with three seconds left to secure the victory.
Patterson led the Bluejays with 19 points. Gaven Schumann added 16 and Winton 15. Windom-Haynes led the Warriors with 16 and Ostrosky added 14.
Like the score, the game was statistically close. Tabor shot 39 percent (21-54) from the floor and Sterling 38 percent (24-54). The Warriors held the advantage behind the arc (9-21 to 4-21) while Tabor dominated the free-throw line (25-33 to 9-11).
Coming—Tabor will play its two remaining regular-season games this week, starting Wednesday at Kansas Wesleyan in Salina with a 8 p.m. start.
On Saturday, Ottawa University comes to town to complete the KCAC regular season schedule with a 7 p.m. tip-off.