No.6 Moundbuilders ward off Blue mens’ late rally

Tabor’s Isaiah Wilson shoots over Brent Smith of the Moundbuilders for two points in the second half of the game with Southwestern on Saturday. The No. 6 ranked Moundbuilders defeated the home team, 83-74 / Phyllis Richert photo

The Tabor College men needed a win not only to avenge a loss to the No. 6 ranked South­western earlier this season, but to have a legitimate chance to challenge the Moundbuilders for the KCAC regular-season title.

Despite a strong effort down the stretch, the Blue­jays came up short, 83-74, on their home court.

“The effort was great, but we’re done,” coach Micah Ratzlaff said about the chase. “We don’t play them again unless we meet them in the tournament.”

Tabor absorbed a sucker punch in the form of three consecutive three-point baskets at the start by Southwes­tern’s Jacob Horsch. Tabor trailed, 11-2, three minutes into the contest.

“Our whole game plan was to stop Horsch, their shooter,” Ratzlaff said. “With­in two minutes he had nine points.That was frustrating.”

Tabor rallied with a basket by Jon Beristain at the 16:50 mark of the first half as the Bluejays pulled to within 11-8 with 15:34 to go before halftime.

When Tabor tied the game at 18 at the midway point of the first half, Southwestern launched an 18-6 surge for a 36-24 lead with four minutes left. South­wes­tern led 44-34 at the break.

For most of the second half, Southwestern’s lead remained eight to 12 points until the home stretch.

With Tabor trailing 72-60 with only 1:48 left, the Blue­jays implemented a hurry-up, pressure offense with Julian Winton leading the attack.

The Bluejays’ scoring guard generated 10 points over a 1:15 span as Tabor cut the lead to 79-74 with 25.2 seconds left. But it was too little, too late.

Winton missed a couple of hurried three-point shots with time running out, and Southwestern countered with four free-throws in the last 24 seconds to secure the 83-74 victory.

Winton was Tabor’s top scorer with 26 points. Alan Urrutia added 17, DeShun Patterson 16 and Beristain 11. As a team, Tabor shot 41 percent (30-73) from the floor.

“Offensively, we’re terrible right now,” Ratzlaff said. “It’s hard when you don’t shoot the basketball very well from three, and teams don’t ever have to come out of the lane.

“Alan opened it up a little bit in the first half when he realized they weren’t guarding him.”

Southwestern All-Ameri­can Cameron Hunt led all scorers with 36 points with 11-for-18 shooting from the field. Horsch added 17 points and Andrew Hamm 11.

“I thought we did some good things defensively.” Ratzlaff said, who was pleased with his team’s effort.

“I’m on a whole different level of pleased because two weeks ago it looked the guys didn’t want to be here,” he said. “We had a lot of individual plays, but it’s so hard to be efficient for 40 minutes if you don’t make the other team work (to defend all players).”

With the loss, Tabor is tied with Friends for second-place in the KCAC at 8-4. The Bluejays are 9-9 for the season. Southwestern remains on top at 11-1 and 18-2 for the season.

Kansas Wesleyan—In a showdown between two teams tied for second place in the KCAC, the Bluejays intensity began early and remained strong all game long on the way to a 62-46 victory on their home court.

Tabor took charge immediately, building a 20-8 lead in the first eight minutes of the game. Five players contributed points: Gaven Schumann chip­ped in four, DeShun Patter­son five, Diontre Cutliff four, Julian Winton five and Jon Beri­stain two.

Coach Micah Ratzlaff said during the week he tried to bring more energy to practices after coming off a one-point win over Ottawa after trailing by 17 points.

“It was just effort—we got our hands on a lot of balls,” he said of the comeback. “We’re capable of shooting the ball—but when we’re good, we’re defending.”

The two teams mostly traded baskets the rest of the first half with Tabor maintaining a 35-24 margin at intermission. The Bluejays shot 51.6 percent (16-31) in the first half compared to Kansas Wesleyan’s 41.7 percent (10-24).

Tabor started the second half with a 6-0 burst for a 41-24 lead at the 18-minute mark, but KWU responded with a 12-2 run with Ernest Carter scoring six points for a 43-26 score.

Beristain provided Tabor with an offensive lift midway through the second half with three consecutive baskets on a couple of shifty moves in the paint. Julian Winton contributed a pair of free throws to bumped the lead 14 points, 51-37, with 9:24 to play.

The Coyotes rallied to within nine points when Carter hit a three-point basket with 3:52 to play. But Winton nailed a pair of free throws and Alan Urrutia drained a huge three-point shot at the 2:25 mark.

The Coyotes then missed their last 10 shots as the Bluejays nailed down the 16-point win.

Winton led all scorers with 21 points. He was acknowledged after the game for reaching the Bluejay 1,000-point club in only a season and a half.

Also scoring in double-digits for Tabor were Schu­mann with 12 points and Cutliff with 10. As a team, Tabor shot 51 percent (25-49) from the field while Kansas Wesleyan managed 31.6 percent (18-57).

“Statistically, (KW) is the best defensive team in the conference,” Ratzlaff said. “They held five straight teams under 60 points—we had 62.”

Ratzlaff said he challenged his team to step up defensively.

“(KW) struggled to shoot the ball from the perimeter,” Ratzlaff said. “We kind of knew that coming in, but anything can happen. One thing that’s helped us is we’ve learned how to battle, we’ve learned how to box-out down the stretch.

“It’s still not good enough, but it’s night and day from what it was when we came back from Christmas.”

The win boosts Tabor’s record in the KCAC to 8-3 and 9-8 overall. The Coyotes slipped to 7-4 in the conference and 9-8 for the year.

Coming—Tabor will host York College (7-5, 10-9) on Wed­nesday with an 8 p.n. start, then will play at McPherson College (1-11, 4-16) Satur­day with a 6 p.m. tip-off.

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