The Tabor men’s basketball team (3-1 in the KCAC, 4-9 overall) was off and running this week, defeating previously undefeated Bethany College at home Thursday before taking down rival Bethel College on the road Saturday, 96-71.
The Bluejays are now one of four 3-1 teams vying for the No. 2 spot in the KCAC standings.
“I’m very proud of this team and their ability to get better every day,” coach Micah Ratzlaff said after the game at Bethel.
Bethel—Tabor jumped to a 7-0 start and never trailed in its 25-point victory Saturday.
“I thought it was a good team effort on both ends of the floor,” coach Micah Ratzlaff said. “We battled really hard on the defensive end and executed on offense.”
The Bluejays soared past Bethel in the first half, leading 42-22 by the break. They outscored the Threshers, 49-44, in the second half to come away with the victory.
Robbie Samuel led the charge with 21 points, followed by 14 from Ryan Chippeaux, 13 from Brent Jackson and 12 from Reggie Butler.
Nick Sauer led on the glass with 10 rebounds, helping Tabor to outrebound Bethel, 46-35.
Bethany—Tabor got a slam-dunk start from senior Ryan Chippeaux to kick off a physical back-and-forth battle in the first eight minutes of play in Tabor’s home victory Thursday.
But when classmate Michael Janzen drained a three-pointer at 12:26 to give Tabor a 14-12 lead and the Bluejays got a stop on the other end of the court, the tide began to turn in Tabor’s favor.
“I thought Janzen was really big,” coach Micah Ratzlaff said. “Michael Janzen came in and just hit everything and was really good.”
With 10-point and seven-point runs as the clock ran down, Tabor earned a double-digit lead.
Bethany rallied in the final minutes of the half to pull within seven, but the Bluejays led 41-32 going into the break.
Bethany nabbed a bucket to begin the second half, but Tabor reeled off 10 straight points to grab the momentum. At 9:28 Chippeaux hit a three-pointer to give the Bluejays their biggest lead of the game, 62-40.
Tabor got a little sloppy as the clock wound down to give Bethany a chance to close the gap. But the defense stood strong and the Bluejays nailed down their 70-55 win.
“The big thing of the night was defense,” Ratzlaff said. “I thought (Bethany) struggled the entire night, didn’t have a whole lot of rhythm, and that was us. Totally because of us. They walked in here being 2-0 and feeling good about themselves. I’m really excited for our guys.”
Chance LeBlanc had a big night for Tabor, leading with 13 points and going 3-of-4 from three-point range. Chippeaux earned another double-double with 11 points and rebounds. Janzen added 11 points.
“Between Chance and Janzen, they really helped us out from the three-point line,” Ratzlaff said.
“We didn’t play an unbelievable offensive game,” he added. “We’re not there yet, we intend to get there. But as long as we show up on the defensive end, it gives us a chance.”
He said the major challenge for his young team is not a lack of talent or coaching, but lapses in focus.“They’re a great group of guys, but extremely hard to keep focused.”
Coming—Tabor will take the week off before playing an exhibition game at Northern Colorado Dec. 17 and hosting Avila University Dec. 31 at 3 p.m.