Tabor tackles Benedictine, stumbles vs. CMU


Damon Dechant scores over Benedictine?s Chris Henton.

With a 74-67 win over Benedictine and a 93-78 loss to Central Methodist, the Tabor College men?s basketball team opened 2009 with a split.

Neither of the Heart of America Athletic Conference representatives defeated Sterling. The Warriors beat Benedictine 67-52 and held off Central Methodist 56-48? CMU?s first loss of the season.

Two starters were injured over the weekend: point guard Aaron Whitelaw was sidelined midway through the Central Methodist game and did not play against Benedictine, and winger Kyle Kroeker sustained a broken nose late in the first half against Benedictine and did not return.

Coach Micah Ratzlaff said both may play Thursday.

Benedictine?The Bluejays (8-5 overall) trailed by as much as nine points during the first half but roared to life when Kyle Kroeker lit up Tabor’s new scoreboards with six points in rapid succession.

Kroeker was fouled in the act of scoring the first of back-to-back 3-pointers, but was unable to complete the 4-point play at 4:12. Just 17 seconds later, Kroeker dropped in another long bomb to lift Tabor within 22-19.

Still, Benedictine clung to a 28-25 halftime lead.

Led by Zack Vanselow, the Bluejays seized control and built a 10-point lead early in the second half.

Vanselow scored six points during the first 2:30 after intermission turned Tabor?s deficit into a 4-point lead, 36-32.

Mike Rousell’s right wing 3-pointer at 15:07 pushed it to seven, and Jared Hett followed with a 3-pointer to make it 46-36, Bluejays.

The Ravens used two runs to rally back, with Jack Johnson?s 3-pointer at 10:52 bridging the gap between a 9-2 stretch and a 10-2 jaunt. The result was a 58-57 Benedictine lead.

Rousell re-tied it with a foul shot with 5:59 left, and Kyle de Blonk put the Bluejays in front for good with a 3-pointer from the top of the key on Tabor?s next possession.

A double-pump layup by Damon Dechant kept Tabor’s lead at three, and Hett made it 65-60 with 2:25 left.

Back-to-back baskets brought Benedictine within a single point, but Hett’s pair of foul shots with 1:20 left proved decisive. On Tabor’s next possession, Hett scored a tip-drill layup following his own miss to make it 70-65, and the Bluejays finished the game at the free throw line.

After being limited to just two points in the first half, Vanselow scored 13 in just over eight minutes of action in the second half.

Hett also finished with 15 points, and Kroeker finished with 11.

Central Methodist?In the final seconds of the first period, Kyle de Blonk put a charge into the home crowd by scoring a 55-foot buzzer-beater. But even that spark failed to jolt the Bluejays back to life after a moribund first half.

?I’m not sure what to think about the slow starts we had,? Micah Ratzlaff said. ?I don’t think they were ready to play at all on Friday and Central Methodist hit us in the mouth right from the tip.?

Red-hot shooting by Matt Sherman and Jeff Blauvelt paced the then-undefeated Eagles to a 52-37 halftime lead.

Tabor rallied behind Orson Thomas, who scored 13 of his 19 points during the second half?including a pair of free throws that capped off the sequence that saw Blauvelt benched after a technical foul with 2:27 left in the game.

Thomas finished the Bluejays next possession with a 2-handed dunk off of Kyle Kroeker’s pass after a steal. The fast break brought Tabor within nine, but the Eagles finished off the final 2:04 with a near-perfect performance at the foul line.

CMU had opened up a 22-point lead midway through the period, and the Bluejays had shown few signs of life until Kroeker scored a layup-and-1 authored by Lance Baar?s pass with 6:16 to go.

The 3-point play ignited a rally that closed the gap from 77-55 to 84-75 during the next 4:12.

Sherman and Blauvelt led Central Methodist with 25 points, and 24, respectively.

Dechant led Tabor’s scorers with 22 points and Vanselow totaled 11.

Coming?Tabor (3-1 KCAC) resumes conference play with a visit from Saint Mary 8 p.m. Thursday. The Bluejays visit Bethany 7 p.m. Saturday.

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