There was no way Newman, an NCAA Division II basketball team, was going to lose to NAIA opponent Tabor on Monday night. It seemed like the Jets knew that, too, as they allowed Tabor to rally from a 16-point deficit to take a lead in the final two minutes.
Newman finally put its knowledge to work when it counted, forcing overtime on three free throws by Keaton Schultz and dominating the worn-down Blue Jays in the extra period to win 85-77.
"The guys' energy level at the end of regulation was huge," Newman coach Mark Potter said. "For some reason in the second half we couldn't find that energy level until the final two minutes."
The Jets called on their sense of urgency, if not desperation, after a Lawson Kingsley three-pointer put Tabor ahead 74-70 with 1:43 to go. Kingsley made 3 of 14 shots and missed his other nine three-point attempts.
His poor statistical line almost became heroic, but he missed a late free throw and so did Cody Arnold, whose three-pointer gave Tabor its first lead, 64-63 with 7:13 remaining.
Arnold's miss at the line kept Tabor's lead at three, and after Schultz was fouled on a three-point attempt, he made all of his free throws to tie it. Arnold and Ryan Chippeaux missed shots in the final seconds for Tabor.
"They got us back on our heels a little bit," Potter said. "And we were not aggressive, so when you combine those two, you're combining something that can make something bad happen, and it almost did tonight."
Newman controlled the tempo in the first half, using little of the shot clock before taking shots, mostly from the perimeter. Schultz scored the first nine points six on two three-pointers in addition to making free throws after he was fouled shooting a three.
Tabor struggled to keep up with Newman's constantly moving perimeter players and didn't respond well to the Jets' defensive pressure. Tabor had 11 turnovers in the first half, and Newman's steals allowed it to play in transition.
"We weren't ready for the pace," Tabor coach Micah Ratzlaff said. "They thought it was going to be tough, but they didn't think (Newman was) going to shoot it so fast. It's just pass (and shoot) and we weren't right on them and they were draining us from the three-point line."
On its first possession of the second half, Tabor took 34 of the 35 seconds on the shot clock to shoot. The shot was blocked, but it established that the Blue Jays were trying to slow the pace.
It worked because Tabor started shooting well, decreasing Newman's fast-break opportunities. Tabor shot 38 percent, but that's mostly because of its 1 for 11 performance in overtime and its 5 for 27 showing from three-point range. The Blue Jays were successful when they made several passes to create open shots in the paint of just inside the three-point line.
"It took us a long time to get warmed up," Ratzlaff said. "That happens to us sometimes. I'm glad that we caught up, at least. It could have gotten ugly if we didn't."
Tabor went cold in overtime and Newman heated up. Will Burdette scored with 3:25 to go to give the Jets the lead for good, and Tabor couldn't recover after missing its first six shots. A Mason Felter three-point play put the Jets ahead 82-77 with a minute remaining.
" (Getting to overtime) definitely raised our confidence," Burdette said. "We definitely found a way to turn it around and knock down shots when it counted at the free throw line and a lot of players stepped up and made plays at the end of the game."