Tabor men fall to IU East in first round of NAIA tourney

Malik Brooks draws a foul during the second half against IU East Thursday in the first round of the NAIA Division II national championship. Brooks made one of two charity shots to bring Tabor within 48-31, and scored eight points in Tabor?s 91-68 loss.The Tabor College men?s basketball team suffered a 91-68 defeat at the hands of Indiana University East Thursday in the first round of the NAIA Division II national tournament.

Tabor leaned heavily on its defense throughout its historic season in which the Bluejays rolled to a perfect, 20-0 conference record and tallied 30 wins and just three losses heading into the national tournament.

But on the nation’s biggest stage, the Bluejays faltered, matched against an IU East team shooting lights out?the Red Wolves made nearly 59 percent of their shots from the field in the game (34-58) and 52 percent from beyond the arc (12-23).

?The defensive end just wasn?t clicking,??coach Micah Ratzlaff said. ?When things weren?t clicking and the communication wasn?t there, our positioning was bad, our angles were really bad, our help was bad, our rebounding was bad. If your personnel isn?t playing like you?re used to them playing all year long, you can?t change that.

?I?thought, ?Okay, we’ll get to the point where we’ll make that 10-0 run or that 8-0 run and get back, and it just never came.?

The Red Wolves established themselves early. The game?s leading scorer, Vasha Davis, scored 10 of his team’s first 12 points on his way to a 25-point outing, to give IU East a 12-6 advantage.?John Jedneak scores to bring Tabor within 19-11 during the first half against IU East Thursday in the first round of the NAIA Division II national championship. Jedneak scored 10 points in Tabor?s 91-68 loss.

The Bluejays, meanwhile, made just three field goals and two charity shots in the first eight minutes. With Tabor trailing, 19-9, John Jedneak scored six of Tabor?s next eight points, but IU East?s lead continued to hover between single and double digits.?

Lance Carter, who finished with 18 points on the afternoon, scored his first two with 3:39 left in the half and followed with a three-pointer 30 seconds later, making it 39-28. IU East scored six unanswered points to close the half for a 45-28 margin at intermission. The Red Wolves made 62 percent of their shots from the field in the first half (18-29), including nearly 54 percent from beyond the arc (7-13).

Tabor matched the Red Wolves much more closely in the second half, but when IU East continued to make shots (16-29 in the second half for 55 percent), the hole became too large from which to climb.?

The Red Wolves outscored Tabor 8-3 in the first 3:13 to extend their lead beyond 20, and with 14:48 to play, IU East held a 62-39 advantage. Tabor?s defense stepped up its intensity, with Jonathan Gibson blocking a shot followed by two Red Wolf turnovers. D?Marco Smith and Carter contributed to a 6-0 run to bring Tabor within 62-45. Just as quickly, though, IU East stretched it to 68-45.?

The Red Wolves, who continued to find success on the offensive end, enjoyed their largest lead of the afternoon, 77-51, with 8:02 to play.?

Tullio Parry later capped a 9-2 burst with a pair of three-pointers, but still, Tabor trailed by 18, 80-62. The closest Tabor got after that was within 17, and the Bluejays fell by 23 in the end.?

?I felt like we were trying hard, but we weren?t going anywhere,” Ratzlaff said. ?Just couldn?t find that spark. It?s tough. This team has been really tough all year long, and we didn?t look like we were tough enough to be in that game, for whatever reason. These guys were really well-prepared for that game; we just didn’t execute on offense or on defense, and our offense comes off of our defense.”?

Carter led the Bluejay effort with 18 points. Smith added 12, and Davaghndre Jones and Jedneak 10 each.?

Tabor concludes its historic season with an overall record of 30-4, during which the Bluejays completed a perfect KCAC season.?

?This makes it tough, but I’m really proud of these guys,? Ratzlaff said. ?To do what they did and accomplish what they?ve accomplished is almost unheard of. We made history. Guys will be able to tell the story about this season for the rest of their lives. To be a part of it and to be able to coach that team is a huge privilege.?

For seniors Jake Arck, Malik Brooks, John Jedneak and D?Marco Smith, it was their final outing in a Bluejay uniform.

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