Jays eliminated by eventual tournament champ Ottawa

Behind 24 points from David Birch and a 14 points, 21 rebounds double-double from Phil McClintock, Ottawa shot the Tabor College men’s basketball team out of the KCAC post-season tournament by a 76-63 final score Wednesday (Feb. 25) in Hillsboro.

Tabor got 22 points from Kyle Kroeker, but was unable to locate the post offense that boosted the Bluejays to a 5-point win in Ottawa the previous week. But lifted by a passionate finale from senior Aaron Whitelaw and unanimous all-KCAC first team selection Zack Vanselow, who scored seven first-half points, the Bluejays trailed by four at halftime. Tabor tied the game at 49-49 and 51-51 at the conclusion of a run keyed offensively by Jared Hett, who out-dueled Birch in an exchange of 3-pointers midway through the second half. Hett’s gutsy left-winger with Birch squarely in his face cut the Braves’ lead to 49-47. He assisted on Kroeker’s game-tying 2-pointer.

After McClintock restored Ottawa’s lead to 51-49, all-conference defensive team selection Orson Thomas made one of a handful of high-octane offensive plays with a dribble-drive layup that knotted it at 51-all.

After Thomas tied it, Ottawa found an unlikely hero in Clint Brightman, who scored back-to-back baskets to force a Tabor timeout with 9:51 to go.

In dire need of a basket and a stop, the Bluejays instead frittered away one possession with an awkward 3-point try by Hett, allowed an open trey by Braves reserve guard DeMarcus Doucette, and endured a pair of near-misses by Zack Vanselow.

Vanselow finished with eight points on 3-for-14 shooting.

Tabor was far from finished, as Hett stepped into a right wing trey to cut it to 59-54. Whitelaw found Jordan Funk for a fast break basket that lifted the Bluejays within a possession.

Brightman answered for Ottawa again, then the Bluejays committed a turnover that unhinged the rest of Tabor?s night. Birch finished off the extra possession with one of his typically wild “and-1” layups.

The Bluejays were outscored 12-3 the rest of the way.

Brightman finished with 10 points and Braves’ center Jacob Carter scored 11 points alongside a 18 minutes worth of effective defense in the paint.

Hett finished with 11 points, and Damon Dechant scored 10 along with eight rebounds and two blocks. Vanselow scored 8 points and Thomas scored 7 points along with nine rebounds and two blocks.

Dechant and Kroeker were awarded all-conference honorable mention Monday.

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