Tabor men end season with 69-58 quarterfinal loss at Friends

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Up against the veterans of the Friends University team that advanced to the NAIA Division II tournament a year ago, the Tabor College men needed a lot to go right Thursday night in Wichita.

But very little went according to plan for the Bluejays, as foul trouble handcuffed both Orson Thomas and Zach Vanselow practically from the get-go.

?Surprisingly, we hadn?t had to deal with having to sit both of our big guys in the first half all season?we?d have one or other other, but not both?and it really hurt us,? coach Micah Ratzlaff said. ?When they weren?t in there, we got away from executing our motion offense and into playing one-on-one basketball.

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?That?s not the way we?re capable of playing, and it?s not how we?ve played throughout the second half of the year.?

The Bluejays? perimeter players kept the team in the game through the first half, but a 19-4 run allowed the Falcons to oust Tabor from the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament, 69-58.

Having pulled within a possession at 40-38 on a Kyle de Blonk dribble-drive layup, and having missed an opportunity to knot the game when Jordan Funk?s aggressive layup attempt fell off the rim, and having had Vanselow pick up his fourth personal during the Friends counterattack, the Bluejays lost control of the game.

Over the next 2:03, the Falcons outscored the Bluejays 8-2, and by the time the clock struck 6:00, Tabor was down by 17.

Tabor also put together a few stretches of solid play on a night where lead changes were few and hard to come by.

Tabor trailed 9-3 out of the gate, but rallied on the strength of efficient defense by Mike Stoecker and a handful of perimeter scores.

?With Stoecker and Caleb Good, you?re talking about two guys who are almost identical in terms of effort, committment to the game and bringing accountability to each person on the team,? Ratzlaff said.

?When you think of seniors and captains and leaders, that?s what exactly what these guys are. They?re exactly what a player wants as a teammate, and they?re going to be very hard for us to replace.?

At 9:07, Tabor tied the game at 14-14 when de Blonk drained a 3-pointer off a pass from Stoecker, who had also notched an assist on a basket by Funk.

Then Jared Hett ran down the rebound following his own miss from 3-point range, throwing in a putback for Tabor?s first lead since Kyle Kroeker put the Bluejays on top 3-1 on Tabor?s first possession.

Friends came right back with a 3-pointer and a 17-16 advantage, but Tabor kept the Falcons on a leash for the remainder of the half.

The Bluejays went to the locker room with a 28-26 deficit at intermission.

Thomas knotted the game at 28-28 1:22 into the second period but was whistled for his third and fourth personals 25 seconds apart, and ended up playing 15:10, compared to his season average of 28:31.

?Orson is a first-team all-conference player, and the ?Newcomer of the Year? and he?s been so consistent for us all year?averaging 13 points a game and almost 8 rebounds?and when he didn?t get to play, other guys had to find ways to score,? Ratzlaff said.

Aaron Whitelaw and Zach Vanselow were also feted by the conference as honorable mention all-KCAC players. Whitelaw led the team with 13 points Thursday, and Jared Hett scored 12.

?We had a great a year, and halfway through the season we figured out what we want to do offensively and defensively,? Ratzlaff said. ?That?s what I wanted to get done this year?to find out who we are as a team, and to be really, really scary by tournament time.?

The Bluejays (9-9 conference, 13-17 overall) finished in seventh place, a tiebreaker behind McPherson, after being picked ninth in the preseason polls.

?We knew we were better than ninth place, but we also knew it was going to be really hard to get that chemistry,? Ratzlaff said.

?We?ll be starting from a whole other level next year, not from the bottom up,? he added. ?I?m excited because I think we?ve got two more gears left?I think out of five, we got into a high three.?

?People watching may think we got to our full potential, but as a coach, I feel like we never really got there.

 

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