The Braves enter the tournament with a 3-game losing streak, thanks in part to Tabor?s 93-88 win Thursday on their floor.
Tabor got a little help from Friends, which dropped Ottawa 82-79 Saturday in Wichita.
Bethany?The regular season finale held a particularly sweet aftertaste for Tabor, which shot 48 percent from the field while holding Bethany to 31 percent for the night.
?We wanted to attack on both ends of the floor and make something happen,? coach Micah Ratzlaff said.
?This team is not very good when we sit back and wait for things to happen,? he noted. ?The more chaos, the better we play.?
The Swede offense suffered a case of defense-induced paralysis after the halftime break, making only eight of 33 field goal attempts (24 percent).
But throughout the first half and at times in the second half, Bethany competed effectively against the Bluejays, notching a 38-36 lead on a point-blank basket by Trey Beachum.
What followed was typical of Bethany?s night: the Swedes failed to locate Jared Hett in transition, and the Bluejays sniper did not need a second look at a spot-up 3-pointer from the left wing side.
Then, having nabbed a 39-38 lead on Hett’s triple, the Bluejays forced a turnover to set up Seth Hardiman’s layup ahead of the intermission buzzer.
Tabor eventually put four scorers in double-digits: Hett (18 points), Kyle Kroeker (15), Damon Dechant (14), and Orson Thomas (11).
With made shots continuing to pile up, the momentum stayed with the Jays early in the second half. Tabor outscored Bethany 12-1 to start the period.
Dechant’s traditional 3-point play 4:29 in put Tabor up by 10.
Kroeker followed with a midrange jumper and Lance Baar capped the run with a short bank shot following a Bethany timeout with 14:54 to go.
Seven free throws and three quick field goals allowed Bethany to close within three, 55-52, but Tabor ramped its lead back to 10 during a dominant stretch of scoring that included all of Jordan Funk’s nine points.
Funk posted a layup-and-1 on top of two field goals and two free throws during a 3:31 span, and the Bluejays outscored Bethany 13-8 the rest of the way.
?It was good to see so many guys contributing offense,? Ratzlaff said. ?I thought Jared Hett and Jordan Funk were fantastic off the bench hitting big buckets more than once when needed.?
CJ Littlejohn led Bethany with 19 points, but no other Swede shot better than 38 percent on the night?while Bethany starters Brad Bietau and Brandon Miller combined to miss all 14 of their non-foul shots.
Ottawa?Tabor?s post offense outscored Ottawa 44-28 in the paint and tripled the Braves output on second chances (21-7), while the Bluejays? press defense converted 17 Ottawa turnovers into 21 points.
?We finished shots, rebounded, hustled after every lose balls, minimized turnovers, and played together,? Ratzlaff said.
?This was our best offensive game all year, it felt like there was a lot of chemistry on the floor which is something I have not felt a lot of this year.?
Scoring machine Phil McClintock threw in 33 points while KCAC scoring leader David Birch backed him up with 24. But Ottawa?s two-headed giant was swarmed under by Tabor?s double-digit scorers: Damon Dechant (24), Zack Vanselow (17), Kyle de Blonk (14), Orson Thomas (13), and Jared Hett (12).
Despite putting up a few airballs and botching a few layups, Tabor took a 45-42 halftime lead.
The Bluejays used an 11-1 run to open up a 67-56 advantage.
The run was powered by two midrange jump shots and a layup by Dechant in conjunction with de Blonk?s pullup jumper and top-of-the-key 3-pointer.
Ottawa rallied within 68-63 behind McClintock, who could not miss for three minutes following a timeout.
But even with 3-pointers by Birch and McClintock framing a Dechant 2-pointer, Ottawa came no closer than three points down the stretch, as Tabor’s steady stream of layups and foul shots carried the day.
Tabor will have to bring another strong offensive game to the table when it hosts Ottawa in the quarterfinal round of the conference tournament Wednesday night?but will also have to remember the value of sound defense.
?We must find Birch and McClintock in transition and know where they are at all times,? Ratzlaff said.
?They are both really good players and they are both going to score, but we need to make it a little hard on them,? he added.
?Those two make that team go. We must come mentally and physically prepared to work our tails off for 40 minutes.?
Coming?Tabor hosts Ottawa at 7 p.m. tonight (Wednesday). With a win, the Bluejays would play either tournament No. 1 seed Sterling or the winner of the Southwestern/Bethany play-in game held Monday night in Lindsborg.
The semifinal winner on the Sterling/Tabor side of the bracket would most likely face either Kansas Wesleyan or Saint Mary in the championship game slated for March 2.