For whatever reason, the rest of the media around the state haven’t taken much notice of what the Tabor College basketball teams are on the verge of accomplishing.
Beginning Thursday, there are two weeks left in the KCAC’s regular season. Four games stand between both Tabor teams and 20-0 conference records.
Their pursuit for perfection made its latest stop on Saturday at McPherson College. The Mac women gave Tabor a mighty push for 29 minutes, but once the Bulldogs gave the Bluejays an inch, they took a mile. The deficit went from five to 21 in a hurry and Tabor wound up with a 62-45 victory.
Tabor is a starless team. Coach Shawn Reed, who apprenticed for many years under the legendary Lonnie Kruse at Sterling before getting a shot to run his own program, has a team of about 15 players that are interchangeable. The common thread is that they all play tenacious defense as Tabor simply wins by shutting teams down — for example, Bethany scored just 28 points for an entire game.
What’s remarkable about going through conference play undefeated is that it’s now a 20-game schedule instead of the normal 18. That’s 10 road games, some of them being long trips like the journey to KCAC newcomer Oklahoma Wesleyan.
The Tabor women would appear to have a much easier road to 20-0 than the men. They have home games against Sterling and Saint Mary, and road games to finish out at Southwestern and Bethel. Of those four, the game in Winfield against Southwestern probably would be the toughest just because Stewart Field House is so venerable and Builder fans can make a lot of noise.
The Tabor men have been on the brink of teetering in the last few weeks. They had a three-game stretch from Jan. 7 to Jan. 14 where they won by one, three and four points. Later on, they had four-game stretch where they won by a total of 12 points.
They have a tough road to perfection. Sterling, Saint Mary, Southwestern and Bethel all have been playing well as of late. Saint Mary and Southwestern will have arguably the best players in the game in Grant Greenberg and Cameron Clark, respectively. There’s always some truth to the saying if you have the best player on the floor, you have the best chance to win.
In the two games with Mac, Tabor clearly had the decided edge in talent, but sometimes I think the Bluejays play bored. They get out to a big lead, take the foot off the gas, then reassert themselves if need be.
The Bluejays have a terrific talent in 6-4 point guard Lance Carter, who is as good as he wants to be. Against Mac, he didn’t seem into the game in the first half, scoring just four points, but must have gotten an earful from the coaching staff at the break because he came out charged up and played at a level few in the KCAC reach. The Jays also have a rim protector in 6-8 Jonathan Gibson and a bevy of 3-point snipers. The key, though, is Carter as how far the Jays go — and that could be the NAIA Final Four — depends on his intensity.
If Tabor’s teams both end up 20-0, I hope it gets more play state-wide. Whatever they’re doing in tiny Hillsboro, the other schools in the KCAC might want to get a hold of the template.