Wins boost Bluejays into first-place tie

With a 66-61 win over Friends, the Tabor College men's basketball team moved into a 3-way tie for first place in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Saturday night in Wichita.

The Bluejays boosted their conference record one game above .500 with a 64-59 win at Kansas Wesleyan Thursday.

Tabor also played a non-conference exhibition game at Arkansas Tech, falling to the Wonder Boys 88-67 on Dec. 8.

Friends?Kyle de Blonk and Mike Rousell led the Bluejays offensively, with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Rousell got the Jays revved up early, scoring all of his points in the first half and powering an early 8-6 lead with back-to-back baskets.

?I thought (Rousell) did a good job of attacking without any hesitation and finishing strong,? coach Micah Ratzlaff said. ?He has been working hard at staying balanced and getting to the rim off the dribble.?

Kyle Kroeker also got started early, nailing a pair of 3-pointers?one for a 3-0 lead 1:29 into the game, and another that opened Tabor’s edge to 25-18 with 5:00 left in the first half.

Romar Jones scored five points in 24 seconds to bring Friends within 25-23. Rousell answered with an 8-foot fallaway jumper from the baseline, and the Falcons went back to Jones for a 2-pointer.

Rousell followed with a traditional 3-point play, attacking the basket and drawing a foul from Matt Muncy.

Friends set up a 3-point shot for Jones at the other end, but he did not connect.

The Bluejays, ahead 30-25, ramped their lead back to seven by collecting four offensive rebounds on one possession that finally ended with Aaron Whitelaw scoring an uncontested layup, rebounding his make, and pounding the dead ball on the court below the hoop.

Friends called timeout and Brandon Graber scored five points in the final minute, cutting Tabor?s lead to 34-32 at halftime.

Despite closing to 37-36 early in the second, the Falcons never got over the hump?and Rousell again made a key play, taking a charge from Chris Heard at 17:21.

Orson Thomas sparked the Bluejay offense, using a slick crossover move to free himself for a 12-foot jumper that made it 40-36.

Thomas scored a 3-point play to push Tabor?s lead to nine at 10:29, and Damon Dechant made it 53-43 with a 2-pointer at 7:44.

?I felt like we played from the outside in during the first half and did not get enough touches on the block,? Ratzlaff said. ?We decided to play from the inside out in the second half and really smashed the ball on the block.

?Even though we had a tough time finishing, it kept us in attack mode and put us at the free throw line,? he said.

Friends closed within four twice during the stretch run: 57-53 on a 2-pointer by Mike Hyde and 65-61 on a triple by Jones with 38 seconds left.

Jones? total of 14 points was the game high.

Kansas Wesleyan?The Bluejays jumped on an early lead that grew to 10-6 on a triple by Kyle Kroeker 4:56 into the first half, but the Coyotes rallied and the advantage flip-flopped 10 times before the intermission.

KW went up by four, 24-20, on a 6-0 run. But Damon Dechant scored six of the next eight points?all on short-range 2-pointers?and Mike Rousell chipped in with another, as Tabor gained a 28-24 lead.

The game swiveled again, with a 5-0 run giving the Coyotes a short-lived lead that Orson Thomas killed with a 2-pointer with 2:05 left in the half.

And KW would have ended with a 33-30 lead after a 4-0 run if not for a 2-pointer by Jordan Funk with 9 seconds left.

Funk’s basket was doubly important because the Coyotes started the second half like rockets, opening a 41-34 lead via an 8-2 run led by Romero Hood.

Hood scored 9 points in the first 2:36 after intermission, but the outburst didn’t matter in the end, as Dechant and Thomas lifted Tabor into a 45-all tie at 12:50.

?The game was extremely rough, and the players on both teams had a hard time getting into any rhythm,? Ratzlaff said. ?We were a lot bigger than KW so we went to the block as much as possible.?

The Bluejays also shrugged off Wesleyan’s subsequent counterattack, which was led by Matthew Jarrett’s 6-point outburst midway through the half.

Jarrett and Melvin Underwood hit back-to-back 2-pointers that pushed the Coyote lead back to seven, 53-46, with 10:06 left.

Tabor?s reply began with a layup-and-1 by Funk with 8:40 left.

Zack Vanselow followed with a putback, Funk threw in another layup, and Aaron Whitelaw drilled a 3-pointer for a 56-55 Tabor lead with 5:30 to go.

Trey Sims and Rodney Brown answered for KW, and Tabor trailed 59-58 at 4:12.

Neither team scored until the Coyotes imploded in the final minute. After an Underwood turnover, Dechant put in a layup for a 60-59 Tabor lead with 22 seconds left.

?Damon Dechant really stepped up and willed his way to the basket a couple of times late in the game,? Ratzlaff said. ?He also did a good job controlling the glass.?

Then, at the defensive end, Dechant made the play of the game by intercepting a post-entry pass.

Tabor missed the ensuing 1-and-1 free throw with 2.9 seconds left.

The Coyotes rebounded, but were immediately slapped with a technical foul for calling one more than the allowed number of timeouts.

Kroeker knocked down both free throws. The Coyotes turned it over again, and Rousell clinched it with a layup as time expired.

Dechant’s 14 led all scorers. Vanselow scored 11 and Whitelaw had 10 as the only other Bluejays in double-digits.

Arkansas Tech?Led by Damon Dechant, Lance Baar and Zack Vanselow, Tabor from a 47-28 halftime deficit to close within 12 points, 51-39, five minutes into the second half.

But after the run, Tech outscored the Bluejays 20-11 and never let Tabor back within 18.

With a breakaway layup by Mike Rousell, Tabor tied the score at 12 early in the first half.

Tabor finished with a 36-34 scoring advantage in the paint, and went 27-for-54 from the field. The Bluejays scored 12 fast break points and 19 off of turnovers.

?We were extremely aggressive, but really struggled at the line,? Ratzlaff said. ?Jordan Funk and Lance Baar were the two players I really wanted to look at, and they both played really well.?

Chad Henderson led all scorers with 23 points for Arkansas Tech.

Coming?Tabor (7-4 overall, 3-1 KCAC) is off for the rest of 2008. The Bluejays begin 2009 hosting a 2-day nonconference tournament featuring teams from Sterling, Benedictine and Central Methodist Jan. 2-3 in Hillsboro.

Sterling plays at 4 p.m. each day, with the Tabor men to follow with 8 p.m. tip-offs.

Tabor visits Newman at 7 p.m. Jan. 5 before restarting conference play with Saint Mary in Hillsboro at 8 p.m. on the eighth.

More from Hillsboro Free Press
Seminary dean named next TC president
Tabor College photo. Jules Glanzer, who was named Monday as the next...
Read More