Tabor cagers pull off shockers

By Steve Sell
March 04, 2014

Tuesday's tidbits…

• TABOR SWEEPS TOURNEY — It was the Tabor College Two-Step Monday night in the KCAC Postseason Basketball Tournaments at Park City's Hartman Arena.

In what could only be described as a stunning turn of events, both Tabor teams will be competing in the upcoming national tournaments, the Bluejay women in Sioux City, Iowa, and the men in Point Lookout, Mo.

Southwestern College's women, who already had qualified for nationals, were trying to hit blackjack Monday night, but were busted. The Moundbuilders were 20-0 against KCAC schools this year, but Tabor absolutely crushed the nation's No. 8 team in its bid for 21, 85-51, a result nobody could have seen coming.  

Certainly not Friends coach RaeAnn Boothe. Had Southwestern completed its 21-0 run through the KCAC, the Falcons would have advanced to nationals by virtue of finishing in second place during the regular season. 

On the men's side it had to be a classic, as Tabor needed overtime to outlast Sterling, 97-90.

The Bluejays' Lance Carter came out of nowhere for a stunning 42-point, 17-rebound performance. He came into the night as the No. 22 scorer in the KCAC at 12.7 points a game, but turned in an effort that conjured up memories of Kentucky's unheralded Jack "Goose" Givens in 1978 when he scored 41 points against Duke in the NCAA championship game.

Tabor thus joins Friends as a national qualifier. Mac coach Tim Swartzendruber told me last week that he thought Tabor might pull off a McPherson-like run, as the Bluejays had to win road games at Saint Mary and Wichita (just as Mac did last year), before completing the trifecta at Hartman.

It will be interesting to see what the KCAC teams can do at nationals. I still think Friends' men can go deep, given it has the amazing Joe Mitchell and shoots the 3 so well. Tabor will try to ride its magic carpet, it certainly is athletic enough.

On the women's side, Southwestern lives and dies by the 3-pointer, but it certainly has the depth to make the Elite 8. Tabor is more of a long shot, but is riding the wave of momentum.

• MILLER FOR MVP? — Central Christian College’s Aaron Miller was selected to the MCAC first team last week, but a strong case could have been made for him being named the conference’s Player of the Year.

That award went to Oklahoma Wesleyan’s Devin Harris, who had the luxury of playing for the conference’s best team.

Had the Tigers finished in the top four like they did last year, Miller would have been hard to overlook. But CCC was just 3-11, though it lost several close games.

Miller led the Tigers in scoring (21.4), assists (5.1), free throws made (185) and free throws attempted (229). His scoring average was tops in the conference, while he was in the top three in total assists, assists per game and free throw percentage.

Miller was the Tigers’ first player off the bench last year, but blossomed as a full-time starter. He was known for his tenacity, as it would be hard to find a player who worked any harder. 

It also was nice to see CCC’s Michael Gholston named as Freshman of the Year. The silky smooth 6-5 swingman came off the bench the first half of the season, but was simply too talented to stay there. He wound up averaging 12.8 points a game.

The future of CCC men’s basketball looks bright as coach Tony Romero had a young team, though Miller will be difficult to replace.

• BETHEL TO BOUNCE BACK? — What in the world is going on with Bethel College football?

The Threshers were 1-8 in the KCAC and 2-9 overall last year under first-year coach Martin Mathis.

But the former Marian University assistant and his staff have been beating the bushes like no other schools on the recruiting trail.

According to the school's website, Mathis and his staff have signed an incredible 92 players. Included in that group are 20 junior college transfers and 72 high school players.

You have to wonder what his recruiting pitch is. Since the highly respected Mike Moore left the school after producing quality teams year after year, the Threshers have fallen off the map in recent times. Yet, it seems like everything the Threshers are touching this offseason is turning to gold.

Of course the old saying is, “ask me on the first day of practice.” Chances are, a few of those 92 probably won’t end up in North Newton. But if sheer numbers mean anything, the Threshers won’t be a KCAC pushover this year.

• SWEDES LOADING UP — Another KCAC football coach hot on the recruiting trail from all accounts is Bethany College’s Manny Matsakis.

Recently on national signing day, the Swedes’ Twitter account was working on overload with signing after signing. 

The one that caught my eye was 6-8 and 350-pound Mike Rivera from New York, an offensive lineman who probably can make up a whole side of the line by himself. 

The addition of former Kansas State football star Joe Gordon to Mataskis’ coaching staff is going to be a boon. He certainly knows what it takes to be part of a big-time program.

 Matsakis arrived in Lindsborg last year to much pomp and circumstance, but the Swedes finished 1-8 in the KCAC and 2-9 overall, though its conference win came against playoff-bound Tabor.

I've heard from a source close to the program that Bethany is loading up with some big-time players that could have the Swedes perhaps pulling off a "worst-to-first" accomplishment.

Given his track record, look for 2013 to be a one-year aberration. Matsakis has too many contacts and resources to let last year happen again. He'll have players from coast to coast. Anderson Stadium may be a happening place once again.