KCAC leaders drop Tabor into 5th place


Faced with Sterling defenders Jonathan Woods (6-10) and Cody Brazelton (6-6), Tabor?s Aaron Whitelaw (5-8) goes airborne.

Entering Thursday night's visit to Sterling with aspirations of catching the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference standings leaders, Tabor was thrown for an 81-69 loss. On Saturday, Ottawa?s two-headed monster of David Birch and Phil McClintock powered the Braves? conference-leading offense to a 93-74 win over the Tabor College men?s basketball team Saturday in Hillsboro.

Birch (27 points) and McClintock (26 points) flashed the form that has them ranked second and third in individual scoring, but it was their swagger at a pivotal moment that proved decisive.

?Their size and strength across the board seemed to wear us down throughout the game,? Bluejays coach Micah Ratzlaff said. ?I thought we battled defensively and gave up some points, but they are a really good basketball team. To me the difference was they finished plays and we came up short time and time again.

?We have to be able to compete for 40 minutes consistently,? he said.

The Bluejays trailed 45-35 at halftime and, despite Tabor's 23-15 run capped by Orson Thomas' vigorous dunk, Birch personally saw to it that Tabor would not take a lead midway through the second half.

After Thomas stutter-stepped and spun past his defender and rocked the rim with a two-handed slam, Birch scored back-to-back layups, then drew a foul and splashed both free throws for a 66-60 Ottawa lead.

On the next Braves possession, Ottawa put the ball in Birch’s hands with the shot clock winding down. He dribbled to his left, pulled up at the 3-point arc, and beat the buzzer with a sparkling jumper over two Bluejays defenders to extend the lead to nine.

Later, Birch pushed the lead to 79-64 with a traditional 3-point play that certified the outcome with six minutes left.

McClintock did much of his damage after Tabor rallied within 81-70, fouling out Damon Dechant with 1:55 to go and using a combination of post scores and foul shots to close out the game.

Ottawa’s offensive proficiency all but drowned out strong performances by Kyle Kroeker and Mike Rousell.

Kroeker shot 3-for-7 from the arc and 7-for-7 from the foul line, finishing with 18 points. Rousell totaled 10 points, including a spectacular tip-in on the heels of Thomas’s dunk.

Thomas finished with 11 points, and Zack Vanselow scored 18 points on 18 attempts despite an 0-for-4 night from 3-point range and an 0-for-3 showing at the foul line.

Sterling?Despite limiting opposing shooters to 0-for-5 from 3-point range, Tabor?s defense was not strong enough to stop the Warriors.

Sterling entered the night leading the conference in 3-point shooting percentage, but the only player on either team to consistently find the range from beyond the arc was Zack Vanselow, who netted three of three shots from distance and finished with 30 points.

?Zach played very well on both ends of the floor,? Ratzlaff said. ?It is nice to see him playing consistent basketball.?

Aaron Whitelaw scored 15 points for Tabor, but left the game with an apparent leg injury after a hard fall with 33 seconds left in the contest.

The Bluejays allowed 22 points off turnovers and had difficulty limiting Sterling’s ability to attack the rack. The Warriors shot 51 percent from the field and earned 21 foul shots.

Tabor led 12-6 out of the gate, but Sterling knotted it at 12-all on its way to a 23-16 lead.

Vanselow won the opening tip, but Sterling forced a turnover, missed a 2-point attempt, caught an offensive rebound and scored first 51 seconds in.

The Bluejays answered with a Kyle Kroeker 3-pointer and back-to-back baskets by Vanselow for a 7-2 lead. A Jared Hett 2-pointer and a 3-pointer by Vanselow gave Tabor a 6-point lead. It did not last.

Sterling tied it with Cody Brazelton?s 2-pointer, knotted it at 16-16 on a basket by Jonathan Woods. Then Zach Goodrich picked Kyle de Blonk?s pocket near half court and scored a breakaway layup.

Chad Friess rejected Damon Dechant?s shot on Tabor?s subsequent possession, and Mac Stephenson tallied a traditional 3-point play set up by Woods? pass at the other end.

The Warriors led 37-28 at halftime, and did not trail after the intermission.

?I thought we were aggressive to start the game and ready to play,? Ratzlaff said. ?Our guards thought something else on the defensive end. The difference in the game was that Sterling’s guards shot layups all night and we didn’t.?

?We really need to get tougher and I’m not sure at times if this team wants to do that or not,? he said.

Whitelaw lifted the Bluejays within 45-41 with a pair of foul shots 3:10 into the second half, but Sterling ran off a 16-4 jaunt capped with a two-handed dunk by Randy July for a 61-46 difference with 9:13 remaining.

Damon Dechant turned in a 12-points, 14 rebounds double-double, but Tabor could not overcome 20 turnovers.

Coming?Tabor (4-4, 9-8 overall) hosts Bethany (2-6, 6-12) at 8 p.m. Thursday and McPherson (4-4, 7-10) 7 p.m. Saturday.

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