The Tabor College men got off to a strong start in their season and home opener against College of the Ozarks, but a stronger second half carried the Bobcats to a 73-67 victory Wednesday night.
The Bluejays started the game with an athletic burst that propelled them to a 25-15 lead midway through the first half. Senior Julian Winton pitched in 11 of those points.
Tabor was still ahead, 32-19, with a little less than eight minutes left in the half when the scoring efficiency began to wain for both teams. Tabor managed a mere two points over the final 2:25 of the half, enabling the Bobcats to cut the lead to 37-31 by intermission.
Both teams went cold through the first four minutes of the second half. Tabor hit only two of eight shots from the field and the Bobcats went 1-for-7.
But College of the Ozarks began to right itself in a way that Tabor couldn’t, cutting the Bluejay lead to 49-48 with 11:54 left in the half.
Scoring bottomed out for both teams over a three-minute scoreless stretch. Winton finally broke the drought with a 3-pointer at 8:44 mark, giving the Bluejays a 52-48 edge.
Down the stretch, the Bobcats regained their shooting touch to lead Tabor by as much as 71-63 with 34.8 seconds left on the game clock.
With a skillful use of timeouts and defensive pressure, Tabor pulled to within 71-67 with 17 seconds left, but the Bobcats finally put the kabosh on the Bluejay comeback to claim their second win in three games.
“Obviously, they made some pretty good adjustments,” coach Micah Ratzlaff said about the Bobcats. “I think what they saw in the first half was a team playing off of a lot of energy.
“We did a good job running lanes, especially after a rough early start. We were getting easier baskets in transition, which gave us more confidence in our half-court offense.”
Ratzlaff said having two games in the books gave the Bobcats an advantage down the stretch.
“We haven’t had any scrimmages besides the alumni game,” he said. “I was more than pleased with our effort in the first half. Second half, I thought we pushed the envelope a little too hard and we weren’t patient enough.
“They packed it in (defensively) and we didn’t get enough open looks from the perimeter. The rhythm wasn’t there that we had in the first half.”
Winton led both teams with 26 points. Teammate DeShun Patterson added 17 and Jon Manjon Beristain 10. As a team, the Bluejays shot 41 percent from the field while the Bobcats shot 47 percent.
Heath Carmichael led College of the Ozarks with 18 points. Canyon Smith added 13 and Calvin Allen 12.
Ratzlaff was particularly pleased with the play of Beristain, a newcomer to the team.
“He’s coming from a junior college where they had even better post players sitting next to him, so he didn’t have to play the role that we’re asking him to play here,” Ratzlaff said.
“Energy-wise, he played like he was the best player on the floor—16 rebounds and he was just everywhere.”
Coming—Tabor will return action Friday when the Bluejays take on a pair of Nebraska teams at the Warrior Classic in Sterling.
Tabor will face Hastings College at 4 p.m. Friday and Concordia University on Saturday with a 3 p.m. tip-off.
Tabor will begin KCAC play Nov. 15 when the Bluejays travel to Winfield to face Southwestern College, ranked 13th in the latest NAIA poll.