Its national tournament berth was never in doubt, but Tabor broke away from a 39-39 halftime tie with a 20-7 run and captured the KCAC men’s tournament title Monday night with a 75-68 victory at Hartman Arena.
Junior Lance Carter paced the Bluejays (30-3) with a double-double of 20 points and 12 rebounds, both team-highs. He also led Tabor with five assists. When the Bluejays made their decisive run, they turned to reserve forward John Jedneak, who scored eight of his 10 points in the second half – eight within a span of 2:22.
As his team celebrated afterward, Tabor coach Micah Ratzlaff said the second half made the difference.
“I knew we were going to go zone, but I wanted to get to halftime,” he said. “I didn’t know if it would work, but defensively we’re pretty good in that zone. And then, we made some plays down the stretch after their misses.”
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The halftime tie didn’t sit well, Ratzlaff said.
“I told them they were lucky to be tied,” he said. “As well as Southwestern came out and the offense Southwestern was running was really, really good. They were getting the guys they wanted open, and getting them to the spots they wanted. We thought zone was a really good choice for us, and it paid off.”
Carter’s night was something pretty much expected, Ratzlaff said.
“Nothing new,” he said with a laugh. “He just leads this team on and off the court. He was really good, gets everybody involved.”
Jedneak, a senior, provides the blue-collar effort, something that is not lost on his coach.
“We’ve been trying to tell him, ‘Go do the dirty work,’” Ratzlaff said. “That dirty work will turn into good stuff, and we got the good stuff out of him.”
Southwestern came out strong, leading by as many as nine points in the first half, but Tabor began a run to close the half that pulled the Bluejays into the halftime tie.
From there, the Moundbuilders (26-7) started to miss shots, and the Bluejays took advantage.
“It seemed like there was a lid on the basket for us,” Southwestern coach Matt O’Brien said. “We got some open looks, and just couldn’t knock them down.”
But the Moundbuilders could take some consolation in capturing the KCAC’s second berth in the NAIA Division II national tournament in Branson, Mo.
“We wanted to take home a banner with us,” O’Brien said. “We didn’t get to do that, but in another week, we’ll get a chance to go to Branson and see what we can do.”
SOUTHWESTERN: Clark 18, Waller 18, Hunt 14, Monroe 8, Wallace 5, B. Smith 2, Lipsey 3.
TABOR: Jones 9, Carter 20, Gibson 10, D. Smith 14, Brooks 9, Urrutia 3, Jedneak 10.
Halftime – Tabor 39, Southwestern 39. Three-pointers – Tabor 4-15 (Brooks 2-5, Urrutia 1-1, D. Smith 1-5, Carter 0-2, Jedneak 0-2); Southwestern 7-28 (Waller 2-6, Hunt 2-6, Clark 2-10, Lipsey 1-4, Fisher 0-1, Horsch 0-1). Rebounds – Tabor 37 (Carter 12), Southwestern 37 (Clark 11). Assists – Tabor 10 (Carter 5), Southwestern 12 (Hunt 5). Fouls – Tabor 14, Southwestern 18.
Tabor women 59, Ottawa 53 — The top-seeded Bluejays (26-7) allowed upset-minded Ottawa to hang around and even trailed the Braves (12-18) after three quarters before pulling away in the fourth quarter.
Tabor’s victory gave the Friends women the KCAC’s second and final NAIA national tournament berth. Tabor had already secured a spot in the national tourney by virtue of its regular-season championship.
Heights and Butler Community College product Jurnee Reid provided a spark in the third quarter, scoring on nearly identical back-to-back layups from the left side, keeping the game close. Reid scored nine points and had 10 rebounds. Teammate Tena Loewen had a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
“I think it took us a little bit to settle in to our offense,” Loewen said. “They’re a good team; they brought all they had for us, and we just had to keep rolling, keep creating for each other, and we got the job done.”
Reid said it was a good feeling to win in front of the home folks.
“It did take me awhile to settle in, so once we kind of got our rhythm, I got to drive a little more,” Reid said. “It feels great to be home. It was awesome.”
OTTAWA: Romig 6, Grammer 8, Strader 2, Thomas 14, Stewart 11, Hodison 7, King 3, Boden 2.
TABOR: Reid 9, Loewen 13, Hurd 3, Zuercher 2, Troxell 7, Bonham 3, Deniston 8, Wilgers 7, Decker 2, Ediger 5.
Halftime – Tabor 25, Ottawa 22. Three-pointers – Ottawa 3-7 (Thomas 2-3, Stewart 1-1, Grammer 0-1, Strader 0-1, Hodison 0-1); Tabor 4-12 (Deniston 2-4, Bonham 1-1, Troxell 1-2, Ediger 0-1, Reid 0-2, Wilgers 0-2. Rebounds – Tabor 35 (Loewen 13), Ottawa 31 (Stewart 6). Assists – Tabor 7 (Ediger 2), Ottawa 7 (Romig, Grammer 2). Fouls – Tabor 14, Ottawa 14.