Red-hot Falcons stun No. 1 Tabor

JT Nemit shoots for three during the second half against Friends. Nemit was 3-for-5 from beyond the arc and scored 11 points in Tabor?s 89-79 KCAC semifinal loss. Janae Rempel / Free Press

The top-seeded Tabor College men could not contain a red-hot Friends offense in Saturday?s KCAC tournament semifinal loss. With 67 percent shooting from the field (30-45), the No. 4 Falcons pulled off a 10-point upset, 89-79.

?(Friends) just hit every big shot the entire game,? coach Micah Ratzlaff said. ?The first half, we just didn?t guard well, but they also shot the ball really, really well. We started guarding the three, and then they started putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim at will. We just couldn?t guard them.?

Friends put Tabor on its heels from the start, going 6-for-6 from the floor?including four threes?in the first five minutes. By the time the game?s leading scorer, Toby Baxter, hit 10 points, Friends held a 19-6 lead.

Dewayne Biggs contributed 10 points to a 14-7 run that trimmed the margin to 28-22, but the Falcons enjoyed a 7-0 run. Then Lance Carter scored in transition and Justin Malan made a three to bring Tabor within 35-27.

The Falcons ended the half with a 12-6 run to lead, 50-36. By halftime, Baxter had 24 points.

?We talked about going zone at halftime,? Ratzlaff said. ?We really didn?t want to right off the bat, so we talked about trapping their on-ball screens a little bit. They came out of halftime and scored. Then we just went straight into the zone to completely change what we were doing, and we did a great job. We got back in it.?

Tabor?s zone helped contribute to a 13-4 run that culminated in a one-handed slam by Andrew Thomas that brought the crowd to its feet and the score within 54-49. By the time JT Nemit hit a three and Biggs made a basket and two free throws, Tabor was within 60-58.

Baxter and Biggs traded threes, but Brett Williams made two more in a 30-second span.

Tabor drew within two one final time, 71-69, with 8:29 to play, but Baxter again hit a three. The Bluejays trailed 75-71 at 6:41, but that was the closest Tabor got as Friends burst to the finish by outscoring Tabor 14-8.

?We shot 51 percent from the field on offense, and that?s good, but they shot 67 percent both halves,? Ratzlaff said. ?They went 67 percent against our man, and then they went 67 percent against our zone. We just couldn?t get any stops. (Friends) played a really good game.?

Baxter finished with 35 points on 13-for-14 shooting from the field, including 4-for-4 from beyond the arc.

Tabor shot 51 percent from the field (29-57), including 42 percent from three (11-26). Biggs led Tabor with 19 points. Carter and Thomas each had a double-double. Carter tallied 17 points and 10 assists, while Thomas had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Nemit added 11 points.

The loss marked Tabor?s first home conference defeat all season.

Last year, Tabor defeated the Falcons on their home court in the KCAC semifinals and went on to win the KCAC tournament championship with an overtime win over Sterling.

Tabor 92, McPherson 64

Quarterfinals, Wednesday at Tabor

Tabor earned a dominating victory over visiting No. 8 McPherson, shooting a blistering 62.5 percent from the field in the game (35-56), including 55.6 percent from three (10-18), while limiting McPherson to 32.9 percent shooting (23-70), including 16.7 percent from three (3-18).

Andrew Thomas led the attack, contributing a game-high 30 points on 14-for-15 shooting from the field.

?We wanted to go inside,? coach Micah Ratzlaff said. ?That was our game-plan because we felt like there?s a mismatch. That?s where we have our biggest advantage.

?Obviously, guys executed that extremely well, but then Andrew has to finish plays, and he did a great job being aggressive and just being unstoppable, literally unstoppable.?

When Tabor?s bench was called for a technical foul before the game, McPherson scored the first two points from the charity stripe before any time left the clock.

JT Nemit hit a three, but the Bulldogs reclaimed the lead. Thomas threw down a one-handed slam?the first of four first-half dunks by the 6-foot, 7-inch senior forward?bringing Tabor within 6-5, but McPherson built its largest lead, 11-7.

After John Jedneak scored, Thomas tied the game and scored eight of Tabor?s next 11 points.

Tabor increased its lead to 28-19, then McPherson closed the gap to 29-27. Thomas fired back with two more dunks, and the first half ended with Tabor in front, 37-31.

?Obviously, we did our job on the offensive end,? Ratzlaff said. ?Coming out in the second half, we continued to go inside, which opened up the outside, and then guys did a really good job of knocking shots down.?

Tabor opened the second half with a 13-2 run. Thomas scored Tabor?s first five points. Malik Brooks and Nemit hit back-to-back threes, and Jedneak made a two-pointer to boost Tabor?s lead to 50-33.

McPherson used a 16-4 run, including 12 points from Louis Parker III, to close the gap to 59-51, then Thomas contributed a traditional three-point play. Tabor maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.

Dewayne Biggs scored 12 of Tabor?s next 16 points, and polished an 8-0 run with a dunk that put the Bluejays in front, 86-62, with 2:43 to go.

Joining Thomas in double figures were Biggs with 23 points and Jedneak with 15. Lance Carter had 12 of Tabor?s 25 assists.

Coming?Tabor will turn its attention to the NAIA national tournament opening round, having earned an automatic bid by winning the KCAC regular season title. The first round is set to begin March 11.

Seedings are scheduled to be released today. Visit hillsborofreepress.com for updates.

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