Grace Takes Fourth Place in NCCAA Tournament


OAKLAND CITY, Ind. -- Mid-Continent University’s speed and athleticism were too much for Grace on Saturday. The Lancers (17-16) gave up a 17-4 run at the start of the second half and fell to Mid-Continent 85-70 to take fourth place in the NCCAA tournament.

The game was tied at 33 at halftime before the Cougars (23-13) pulled away from No. 4 Grace in the second half. No. 2 Mid-Continent led by double-figures the remainder of the half and built a 21-point lead, their largest of the game, at the 2:45 mark.

Mid-Continent shot 80 percent in the second half (20-for-25) and 65 percent in the game. It was Grace’s second game in a row where the opposing team has shot over 65 percent overall.

"I'm baffled that two teams in a row have shot that well on us," said head coach Jim Kessler. "I joke about how we bring the best out of people. I think we needed to control the tempo, and for whatever reason we weren't able to do that in the second half."

While usually defined by their post play, the Lancers depended on their guards the entire contest. Kyle Plumlee and Elliot Smith combined for 32 of Grace’s 70 points while Grace’s big men and leading scorers, David Swanson and Duke Johnson, only combined for 23 points.

Grace started out the game strong, leading 11-2 in the first few minutes of play. Mid-Continent, however, responded with a 15-5 charge and took their first lead (17-16) at the 9:23 mark in the first period.

Mid-Continent tried to continue their run, but Plumlee kept the Lancers in the game and drained three 3-pointers, scoring nine of Grace’s 10 points toward the end of the half. The game was tied at 33 heading into break. Plumlee and Smith, kept the Lancers afloat in the first half, nailing three 3-pointers apiece and scoring 20 of Grace’s 33 first-half points.

Playing three games in three days, Grace began to show their lack of depth and signs of fatigue. The Cougars outscored Grace’s bench 17-0 in the first half and 42-11 overall.

Plumlee and Smith each finished with a game-high 16 points, and Plumlee grabbed nine boards, a career-high. Johnson had 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Swanson finished with nine points.

"The way we played at this tournament is a great way to set a foundation for this team," Kessler continued. "We have young guys like Elliot (Smith) and Duke (Johnson) and a bright future awaits us."

Grace graduates seniors Swanson and Plumlee. Swanson is Grace’s only basketball player to play in four national championships. He helped lead Grace to the NCCAA championship game in 2007 and back-to-back Elite Eight finishes at the NAIA national tournament in 2008 and 2009. He finished 29th in career points (1,359) and 10th in career rebounds (963).

Plumlee, a transfer from Manchester College, was Grace’s starting the point guard the last two years, leading them to the NAIA Elite Eight in 2009, and averaging 6.5 ppg and 3.4 apg in 2010.

"We are gonna miss those two guys enormously," Kessler said. "For two veterans to come in on a rookie team and help us lay a foundation -- I couldn't be more proud of them."

Lancers Fall to Top Seed in NCCAA Semifinals


OAKLAND CITY, Ind. -- King College’s hot shooting and full-court press crushed Grace’s hopes of a national championship on Friday.

The tournament’s number-one seed Tornado (24-5) shot 66 percent from the floor and 50 percent from the 3-point line to defeat Grace 90-78 in the semifinals of the NCCAA national tournament. King’s press flustered the Lancers (17-15) all day, and they racked up 20 turnovers to only 11 for King.

“We defended well, but tonight, they made tough shots,” said head coach Jim Kessler. “Our execution against the press was good at times, but it needed to be better. We made several great runs throughout the game, but they continued to make their shots.”

NCAA Div. II King mounted a massive 21-2 run in a seven-minute span in the first half and never looked back. Grace, the fourth seed, tried to make several runs throughout the remainder of the game, but the hole they dug in the first half was too deep to overcome.

The Lancers went on an 11-4 run at the end of the first period to cut King’s lead to 11; however, the Tornado’s Mark Dockery converted a 3-point play at the end of the half to give his team a 14-point lead at the break (48-34). Johnson also had to play cautiously because he picked up his second foul midway into the period.

Steve Kaufman scored four quick points to start the second half and help cut King’s lead to nine, but King’s hot shooting only continued. The Tornado hit two 3-pointers in a row to build their lead back up to 15, including a 3-pointer from Dockery.

Lee Ross also tried to get Grace back into the game by hitting three 3-pointers in a three-minute span to spark a 19-6 Lancer run. Grace cut King’s lead to nine points with four minutes left in the game but again, Dockery hit a 3-point dagger to spark an 11-0 run and kill Grace’s comeback hopes.

Grace’s Swanson and Johnson led the way with 19 points apiece. Swanson also grabbed 10 boards. Ross added 10 points off the bench.

Nine out of King’s ten players shot over 50 percent from the floor. The Lancers (17-15) shot 45 percent from the floor and 32 percent from beyond the arc.

The Lancers will play in the third-place game against Mid-Continent University at 6 p.m. CST on Saturday.

Grace Advances to Semifinals in Overtime Thriller


OAKLAND CITY, Ind. -- Oakland City University led Grace’s men’s basketball team the entire game on Thursday. That is, until the final 2.1 seconds of regulation.

David Swanson got an offensive rebound and scored a put-back layup with 2.1 seconds left to tie the game 69-69 and send the contest into overtime. The Lancers (17-14) outscored Oakland City 15-8 in overtime en route to an 84-77 victory to advance to the second round of the NCCAA tournament.

“When it hit the rim, it was the highest bounce I’d ever seen,” Swanson said of his last-second put-back. “I just tried to time it right, went up and grabbed the ball and put it in luckily. I just praise God for the victory.”

Grace took their first lead of the game when Duke Johnson made a free throw at the beginning of overtime to give the Lancers a 70-69 advantage. The Mighty Oaks (19-8) retook the lead (73-72) at the 3:16 mark – but it was their last of the game.

Grace sparked an 8-1 run led by four points apiece from Johnson and Swanson. The lethal duo of Johnson & Swanson scored 11 of Grace’s 15 overtime points to earn the victory.

“The real key was that we got several stops in a row down the stretch,” said head coach Jim Kessler. “We attacked the basket, got to the free throw line and hit free throws down the stretch. Praise the Lord – we survived to play again.”

Although the Mighty Oaks led for the first 39:58 of the game, Grace never let the contest slip away. Oakland City’s largest lead in regulation was merely seven points in the first half and eight points in the second half.

When Grace fell behind by eight (48-40) at the 13:52 mark in the second half, Nick Achille came off the bench and drained two big 3-pointers to keep his team in the game. Lee Ross also came off the bench and played stellar defense on Oakland City’s leading scorer Jared Maners and held him to 12 points on 3-of-13 shooting.

Johnson had a career-high 30 points to go along with 10 rebounds, and Swanson added 18 points and 10 boards. Dayton Merrell added 11 points while Achille tallied 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting.

The Lancers only had 14 turnovers on the evening compared to 18 from Oakland City, 11 of which came after halftime.

Grace, the second best free throw shooting team in NAIA Div. II, sunk 23-of-27 from the charity stripe including 12-of-13 from Johnson. Oakland City struggled from the line and shot 14-of-28.

Swanson moved up to tenth on the Grace’s career rebounding list (946) and passed Matt Abernethy (937) on the evening. The Lancers’ lone four-year senior is also the only Grace basketball player to participate in four national tournaments.

No. 4 Grace earned the victory in front of No. 5 Oakland City’s home crowd and an attendance of 858. Head coach Jim Kessler has never lost in the first round of the NCCAA tournament.

The Lancers will play No. 1 King College at 7 p.m. (central time) tomorrow in the semifinals.

Buzzer Beater Spoils Grace's Upset Bid


SPRING ARBOR, Mich. -- A last-second, desperation 3-pointer by No. 21 Spring Arbor's Rob Boss upended Grace's men's basketball team 69-68 in the first round of the Mid-Central College Conference tournament.

The Lancers (16-14), the sixth seed in the tourney, had a five-point lead with one minute remaining before missed free throws and turnovers gave the Cougars (22-9) a shot to steal the win. Boss, a senior for the third-seeded Cougars, had never made a 3-point field goal in his career before that shot.

"I was deeply disappointed in the outcome tonight," said head coach Jim Kessler, "but I could not be more proud of my men tonight. We played terrific, intense defense and shot the ball well, except at the free throw line. They had to hit a lucky shot to win it."

From an opening bucket by sophomore Dayton Merrell, Grace held onto a slight margin throughout the majority of the game. The opening half was a back-and-forth battle with neither team grabbing a lead of more than six points. Spring Arbor used a 10-0 run to take their biggest lead of the game at 26-22 with 3:46 left in the first half. The Lancers quickly rebounded to take a 29-28 lead going into halftime.

Grace began to open up a lead midway through the second half. A 3-point shot by Merrell with 6:10 remaining in the game capped off a 10-2 run that gave the Lancers a 62-52 lead, their biggest of the game.

From then on, Spring Arbor chipped away at Grace's lead. The Lancers, one of the top free-throw shooting teams in the nation, missed their last four free throws of the game, including a pair by freshman Elliot Smith with seven seconds left in the game.

Coming into Wednesday night's game, the Lancers were ranked second in NAIA Div. II in free throw percentage (.762). Against Spring Arbor, Grace could only convert 11-of-18 from the charity stripe (.611), including 6-of-12 in the second half.

"We did what we needed to do to win," Kessler continued. "Our bigs were dominant, and we played good enough to win. We made some unfortunate decisions at the end, but I wouldn't have changed a thing."

The Lancers had twice as many turnovers as the Cougars (16 to 8), but they outrebounded Spring Arbor 44 to 26, including snatching 12 offensive boards.

Sophomore Duke Johnson hit 9-of-14 from the field for a game-high 24 points. He also grabbed eight boards. Senior David Swanson tallied a double-double with 17 points and 15 rebounds, and Merrell finished with 13 points, including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. Smith struggled shooting with 1-of-7, but he dished out five assists with zero turnovers.

The Lancers now await the pairings for the NCCAA Regional qualifying game, which will be announced next week. Grace will hope to qualify for the NCCAA National Tournament which is held in Oakland City, Ind., from March 18-20.

Lancers Drop Regular Season Finale


WINONA LAKE, Ind. -- Grace’s men’s basketball team held an early lead against No. 5 Indiana Wesleyan on Saturday, but the Wildcats responded to hand Grace an 81-59 loss in their final regular season game.

After scoring six of the Lancers' (16-13; 6-10 MCC) first eight points to start the game, sophomore Duke Johnson picked up two early fouls and was forced to sit all but six minutes of the first half. The Wildcats (24-5; 12-3 MCC), after falling behind 10-18, took advantage of Johnson's absence and sparked a 15-4 run to take the lead for the remainder of the game.

At halftime, Grace trailed 29-39. Johnson was Grace's leading scorer at the half with six points in six minutes. The Lancers gave up eight turnovers in the half without recording a single steal.

Indiana Wesleyan continued to build on their lead in the second half, eventually going up 61-39 at the 11:59 mark. Grace tried to make a comeback shortly after with a 7-0 spurt to bring the game to within 15 points, but they could not get any closer the rest of the game.

The Wildcats turned the ball over four times all game, including one turnover in the second half, while shooting 50 percent for the game.

Elliot Smith led the Lancers with 14 points on 4-of-9 shooting while Johnson finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Dayton Merrell also chipped in nine points, and Daniel Goins added eight points off the bench.

With the loss, Grace is ensured a sixth-place finish in the Mid-Central College Conference. In the upcoming MCC Tournament, the Lancers will travel to face the third-place team in the MCC.

Upset City


WINONA LAKE, Ind. -- Late in the season, Duke Johnson has certainly stepped up.

Johnson had a career high 28 points and carried the Lancers to a 91-83 victory over No. 7 Saint Francis on Saturday. He was 9-for-13 from the floor and had a game-high 12 rebounds to tally his ninth double-double of the year.

"Duke wanted the ball tonight. He was calling for it, demanding it, and that's what we need for him to do for us to succeed," said head coach Jim Kessler. "When he wants the ball, he really creates havoc for our opponents. He had some big rebounds, too."

In the end, the Lancers (16-12; 6-9 MCC) won the game at the free throw line. After leading 35-27 at halftime, Grace drained 28-of-30 from the charity stripe in the second half and racked up 56 points, their highest scoring half this season. For the third consecutive game, Johnson went 10-for-10 from the line. The Lancers are currently ranked fifth in NAIA Div. II in free throw shooting.

The Cougars (22-6; 10-4 MCC) made several runs in the second half, but Grace managed to hold onto their lead. The Lancers had a 68-58 lead with seven minutes remaining, but Saint Francis quickly cut the deficit to five points at the 5:53 mark. That's when Danny Goins drained a huge three pointer from the top of the key off of Johnson's assist to give Grace a 71-63 advantage.

The closest Saint Francis got the remainder of the game was in the final 30 seconds when they trailed 81-87. Lee Ross and Dayton Merrell, however, made two free throws apiece to finish off the Cougars.

Saint Francis's final lead of the game was a 16-14 advantage at the 13:03 mark in the first half. In response, Grace mounted a 15-2 run to blow the game open and never looked back.

"We played defense," Kessler continued. "It doesn't hurt that we shot the ball well either. Underlying that was that we were more disciplined in the shot we chosed. We were more patient in spreading the ball. When the ball goes inside, our offense works."

Elliot Smith tallied 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting along with four assists. Merrell had 14 points on 3-of-6 shooting and grabbed seven boards. Goins had nine points, and Ross added seven points off the bench. David Swanson only scored eight points, but he held Saint Francis's DeJovaun Sawyer-Davis to 19 points on 7-of-21 shooting and 1-of-9 from beyond the arc.

Grace had 20 turnovers to Saint Francis' 12 but outrebounded the Cougars 35-26. The Lancers also shot 56 percent from the floor to Saint Francis' 40 percent.

The Lancers' defense was much better this time against Saint Francis after giving up 101 points against the Cougars on Jan. 12.

"In the MCC, a win is a win. It was a better defensive effort against a good offensive team," Kessler said. "This late in the season, for these guys to upset a team that good is monumental."

The Lancers are back in action at home against No. 5 Indiana Wesleyan on Tuesday for their final conference game of the regular season. Seniors David Swanson, Kyle Plumlee and Ryan Eakins will be honored at halftime. Game time is 7 p.m.

No. 20 Spring Arbor Too Much for Grace


SPRING ARBOR, Ind. -- Grace's men's basketball team allowed No. 22 Spring Arbor to shoot 53.7 percent from the floor and fell to the Cougars 64-80 on Wednesday.

The Lancers (15-12; 5-9 MCC) only scored five points in the final 6:30 of the first half, and consequently, Spring Arbor blew the game open and built a double-figures lead at halftime.

The Cougars (20-8; 9-5 MCC) continued to pull away from Grace in the second half. Grace was scoreless through their first nine possessions of the second half. Spring Arbor's lead never fell below double-digits and grew to 23 points at the 11:21 mark. Grace's last lead of the game was a 13-12 advantage midway through the first half.

"Overall, except for a couple stretches, I thought it was a really good game," said head coach Jim Kessler. "You have to bring it for 40 minutes against a top 20 team. We had a good 30-minute effort, but we weren't in-sync for a 10-minute span."

Duke Johnson led the Lancers with 18 points and also grabbed eight rebounds. Johnson was 10-for-10 from the free throw line for the second consecutive game. Elliot Smith added 16 points on 2-of-3 shooting from beyond the arc, and Tannan Peters led the Lancers in rebounding with nine boards in 11 minutes. For the second game in a row, Nick Achille earned some solid minutes off the bench and scored nine points on 3-of-8 shooting.

Spring Arbor held David Swanson, Grace's top scorer and leading rebounder, to a season-low five points and three rebounds on the evening. It was Swanson's first game without a double-double in three contests.

Kessler mentioned that the Lancers' defense was much improved compared to the first matchup on Jan. 9 where Grace gave up 93 points in a loss.

Grace returns to action at home against Saint Francis on Saturday at 3 p.m. The contest will be locally televised for the TV-46 Game of the Week.

Lancers Hang on to Defeat Taylor


WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Duke Johnson proved why Grace is one of the top free throw shooting teams in the nation on Saturday.

Johnson battled in the post all day and drained 10-of-10 from the charity stripe, leading the Lancers (15-11; 5-8 MCC) to a 61-56 victory over Taylor. He had a game-high 16 points to go along with eight rebounds, handing the Trojans (11-16; 2-11 MCC) their sixth straight loss.

The victory also assures Grace of their sixth consecutive winning season.

“A lot of teams this time of the season have lost the drive to practice hard,” said head coach Jim Kessler. “But we are still wanting to become a better team, and we are still bringing that kind of positive energy this late in the season. This win was big for us.”

The contest was very back-and-forth, featuring 10 ties and 10 lead changes. Grace took the lead for good at the 15:20 mark in the second half when Lee Ross forced a turnover and converted a fast break layup to give Grace a 39-37 lead.

The Trojans, however, didn’t go away.

Grace took advantage of a four-minute Taylor scoring drought and built a 47-40 lead with nine minutes to play, but Taylor responded with a 4-0 run to wither Grace’s momentum.

That’s when Elliot Smith drained a pivotal 3-pointer from the left wing to give the Lancers a 50-44 advantage. Taylor never got within four points the remainder of the regulation as Grace built an eight-point lead, their largest of the game.

“I thought we brought good team energy to the game,” Kessler continued. “We are still going hard, and that pleases me. One of the things that shows we are playing with a lot of energy is when we outrebound them.”

The Lancers outrebounded Taylor 36 to 19 and held Taylor to only one offensive rebound.

Grace entered the game as the fifth-best free throw shooting team in NAIA Div. II and backed it up by shooting 85.7 percent (18-of-21). Taylor, who is 15th in the nation from the charity stripe, shot 58.3 percent (7-of-12) from the line.

David Swanson added 13 points and 11 rebounds, his 13th double-double of the year. Swanson is ranked fourth in NAIA Div. II in double-doubles.

Elliot Smith tallied nine points, four assists and four steals while Kyle Plumlee had nine points and three steals. Nick Achille also gave Grace a spark off the bench with seven points on 3-of-6 shooting.

Grace will travel to Spring Arbor, Mich., on Tuesday to play the No. 19 Cougars. The Lancers’ final three games of the season are all against ranked opponents.

Rough First Half Dooms Grace


WINONA LAKE, Ind. -- Grace's men's basketball team fell behind Goshen College 26-8 within the first 11 minutes of their game Tuesday night and could never recover, falling to Goshen 99-79 at the Orthopaedic Capital Center.

"We just couldn't get the ball rolling early," said head coach Jim Kessler. "We got down big in the first half and couldn't get out of that hole."

The Lancers (14-11; 4-8 MCC) could only hit 9-of-32 from the field in the first half and gave up 11 turnovers to hinder themselves. Grace did make an 11-0 run, led by sophomore Duke Johnson, midway through the first half to cut Goshen's lead to seven at 31-24. But the Maple Leafs (14-11; 5-6 MCC) continued to shoot the ball well, connecting on 52 percent in the first half, to regain control of the game.

Johnson scored 13 points, including seven during Grace's run, to lead Grace's offensive attack in the half. He grabbed 10 boards in the first half for an opening period double-double. But his efforts were not enough as the Maple Leafs went into the break with a 45-29 lead.

"We'll try to put that game out of our minds as quick as possible," Kessler continued. "We've still got a few games to play to get ready for the conference tournament. We're already moving onto Saturday."

Johnson finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Senior forward David Swanson collected his 12th double-double of the season by totaling 10 points and 11 boards, and sophomore forward Dayton Merrell scored all 10 of his points in the second half.

The Lancers return to action Saturday as they welcome the Trojans of Taylor University to the Orthopaedic Capital Center for a 3 p.m. tip-off.

Smith Ties Career-High in Win over Huntington


HUNTINGTON, Ind. -- Freshman guard Elliot Smith scored 21 points to help Grace's men's basketball team grab a huge victory with a 78-72 win at Huntington University.

In a classic back-and-forth conference game which featured 20 lead changes and 11 ties, the Lancers (14-10; 4-7 MCC) outpaced the Foresters (15-9; 4-6 MCC) with 50 second-half points. Sophomore Duke Johnson hit four free throws in the final 30 seconds to ice the game.

Both Johnson and senior David Swanson recorded double-doubles for the Lancers. Johnson finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Swanson notched his 11th double-double of the season with 12 points and 15 boards.

"I think we all feel like we just made it to the top of the hill," said head coach Jim Kessler. "Tonight we displayed the type of positive energy that we need to play with all the time. I'm quite proud of our men. They kept their head up from start to finish, and that is a big thing."

Midway through the first half, the Lancers showed their potential to score with anyone. Down by five points with 9:29 remaining in the half, Grace scored the next eight points from four different players (Smith, Johnson, Achille, Steve Kaufman).

With three minutes left in the game, Grace went on another 8-0 run to break open a 64-64 tie. The run, which was fueled by a pair of 3-pointers by Smith, put the game out of distance. Huntington was not able to get closer than four points the rest of the game.

"I challenged them, 'Who do you play for, and why are you playing?'" Kessler said. "When you look down, it's all about yourself and self-pity. When you look up, you realize why you are playing. To get a nice win on the road against Huntington was huge for us."

Freshman Nick Achille made the best use of his minutes off the bench with 10 points and five boards.

Smith's 21 points is the third time this season he has reached that output, most recently in a loss against Goshen College. Each game, Smith has hit at least four 3-pointers.

The Lancers return to action Tuesday at the Orthopaedic Capital Center for a 7 p.m. rematch with Goshen College. The Maple Leafs knocked off Grace 76-66 on January 5th.

Grace Continues Skid in Loss to Marian


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Grace's men's basketball team continued its downward spiral, losing its fifth game in a row on Tuesday in a 85-61 loss to Marian University.

The Lancers (13-10; 3-7 MCC) started off poorly, yielding a 16-4 run in the first five minutes of the game. The Knights (9-11; 2-8 MCC) continued to press their advantage, leading by as many as 22 points in the first half.

Marian nailed five 3-pointers in the first half, including four from Marian's Anthony Furlin, and shot 66.7 percent from the field in the opening period compared to Grace's 34.5 percent.

The second half was much of the same. Marian pushed its lead to 62-34 with 12:54 remaining in the game before Grace attempted to make a comeback. The Lancers cut that lead in half over the next eight minutes when a David Swanson layup brought the score to 71-57 with just under five minutes left.

However, the home team responded with a 14-4 run to finish out the game and give Grace its fifth straight loss. So far in 2010, the Lancers are 1-6.

Swanson finished with 15 points and 7 boards, while freshman Tannan Peters contributed off the bench with 13 points on 5-of-6 from the field in 15 minutes of playing time.

The Lancers return to action during the Coaches vs. Cancer Suits & Sneakers Weekend. Grace will travel to Huntington, Ind., for a rematch with the Foresters on Saturday at 3 p.m. On Dec. 5, Grace knocked off the previously unbeaten Foresters in overtime at the Orthopaedic Capital Center.

Lancers Fall to Bethel in Fourth Straight Loss


WINONA LAKE, Ind. -- For the past three years, Grace’s men’s basketball team hasn’t been able to get past conference rival Bethel College. The trend continued on Saturday.

In front of a packed-out Orthopaedic Capital Center, the Pilots (18-4; 6-3 MCC) went on a 14-5 run at the beginning of the second half to defeat Grace, 81-71. The loss was the Lancers’ (13-9; 3-6 MCC) fourth in a row and eighth straight to Bethel.

“The start of the second half was when the game was decided,” said head coach Jim Kessler. “Bethel wanted that game and really played hard. It was really a closer game than 10 points.”

Grace hung tough with the No. 4 team in the nation for the first 20 minutes of the game. The first half featured four ties, five lead changes, and each team’s largest lead was a mere six points. Bethel held a 45-40 advantage over the Lancers at halftime.

After the Pilots’ charge at the beginning of the second half, Bethel maintained a double-figures lead for the majority of the period.

The Lancers, however, weren’t ready to throw in the towel. Trailing 72-60 at the 5:53 mark, Grace made a 9-0 charge to cut Bethel’s lead to three points with 1:36 remaining in the game. But the Pilots drained seven clutch free throws in the final minute to ice the Lancers and earn the victory.

Statistically, Bethel barely outmuscled Grace in several categories. Grace was outrebounded 35-33, and the Lancers accumulated two more turnovers than Bethel (16-14). Bethel had 34 points in the paint to Grace’s 30 and shot 49 percent to the Lancers’ 41 percent.

“The game came down to rebounding,” Kessler said. “When you are that close in a matchup, you can’t spot them anything. We spotted them four chances, two more turnovers and two less rebounds, and that is what it took.”

The Lancers had five players in double-figures. Kyle Plumlee tallied 14 points, six rebounds and five assists, and Elliot Smith added 14 points and four assists. Danny Goins had 13 points off the bench, David Swanson had 13 points and 10 rebounds (his 11th double-double), and Duke Johnson added 10 points and seven rebounds. Steve Kaufman came off the bench and helped defend Bethel’s Ryne Lightfoot, who finished with 21 points.

Kessler also mentioned that he was impressed with all the fans that showed up for the classic MCC rivalry. “What a great fan support we had today,” Kessler said. “That was fantastic. Many people mentioned to me that they were very impressed with our fan base.”

Grace will try to snap their four-game losing streak when they go up against Marian on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Indianapolis.

Lancers Falter in Second Half to IWU


MARION, Ind. -- At the beginning of the year, Grace’s men’s basketball team was as clutch as they come. As of late, however, the Lancers have been consistently outplayed in the second half.

Such was the case in Grace’s 71-80 fall to No. 15 Indiana Wesleyan on Saturday, the Lancers’ third straight game where their opponents have significantly outplayed them in the final period. In Grace’s last three games, their opponents have scored an average of 52 points and shot over 69 percent in the second period.

“I don’t know what the problem is,” said head coach Jim Kessler. “It’s the penetration. They break us down with the dribble, and it becomes a layup drill (for the other team) in the second half.”

After a back-and-forth first half that featured five ties and nine lead changes, the Lancers (13-8; 3-5 MCC) built a 50-39 lead with 15 minutes to play in the second half. The Wildcats (17-3; 6-1 MCC), however, fought their way back from the 11-point deficit and took a 59-57 lead with 9:30 to play in the game.

Grace managed to survive Indiana Wesleyan’s run and hung onto a slim 63-62 lead with six minutes remaining in the game. That’s when the Wildcats blew the game open with a 15-2 charge to run away with the win.

“We outplayed them for 35 minutes, but we didn’t close the deal,” Kessler continued. “In 10 possessions at the end, we had five turnovers. We didn’t contain penetration and couldn’t rebound during the second half.”

Dayton Merrell tied a career-high with 19 points, including a career-high 4-of-4 from beyond the arc. Duke Johnson earned his fifth double-double of the year with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Elliot Smith added 12 points.

Wildcat center Zach Coverstone helped keep the Lancer big men in check, grabbing 20 rebounds and blocking six shots.

David Swanson grabbed all of his seven rebounds in the first half and was held to under 10 points for the second time this season.

Swanson hasn’t topped 20 points in Grace’s last seven contests, and Grace has gone 2-5 during that span. Overall, Grace is 6-1 when Swanson scores 20 or more points and 7-7 when he doesn’t.

At the midway point of the conference season, the Lancers find themselves sitting in sixth place in the conference. The loss was Grace’s fourth in fives games and Indiana Wesleyan’s 12th win in a row.

“I’m not disappointed with our play overall today,” Kessler said. “We competed. We have a week to get ourselves collected and regain our composure for the second half of the conference season.”

Grace has a bye on Wednesday and continues conference play at home against Bethel on Saturday. Game time is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Grace Gives Up 100, Falls to Saint Francis


FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- For the second game in a row, Grace’s men’s basketball team uncharacteristically gave up more than 90 points in an 82-101 loss to No. 10 Saint Francis, their third loss in four games.

The Lancers, a team that only gave up an average of 69.6 points to their opponent through 18 games, surrendered 93 points to Spring Arbor on Saturday and 101 points to Saint Francis.

"We really need to tighten up our defense," said head coach Jim Kessler. "They are a good basketball team, but we gave up 14 layups in the second half. We just did not stop penetration of the basketball. We also had a number of point blank shots in the lane that we missed. Their quickness and penetration really broke us down defensively."

Dayton Merrell, a Fort Wayne native, performed well in front of his home crowd and gave the Lancers (13-7; 3-4 MCC) a boost in the first half. Merrell scored 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting and led all scorers at the break. Kyle Plumlee also drained two big 3-pointers and scored eight of his 11 points during the first period.

After only trailing by five at halftime, the Cougars (16-4; 4-2 MCC) went on a 29-13 charge in the first ten minutes of the second half to build a comfortable lead and hold on for the easy victory.

The Cougars shot a sizzling 72 percent from the floor in the second half and drained 6-of-10 three pointers. It was Grace's second game in a row where their opponent shot over 70 percent in the second half. Overall, the Lancers shot 43 percent from the field compared to Saint Francis' 58 percent.

"That's the second game in a row where we have given up more than 50 points in the second half," Kessler continued. "Both teams penetrated against us very effectively. We have to solve that problem and get back on the winning track. We scored 82 points and that ought to be enough to win."

Saint Francis outscored Grace 54-22 off the bench, 54-38 in the paint and tallied ten more assists than the Lancers. Grace outrebounded the Cougars 38-to-32 overall and 19-to-10 offensively.

Midway through the second half, Grace's Lee Ross exited the game with a broken nose.

Grace's Merrell and David Swanson led all scorers with 17 points apiece and Elliot Smith added 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting. The Cougars had 13 different players score on the evening.

Grace will try to snap their two-game losing streak as they travel to conference rival Indiana Wesleyan on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Spring Arbor Too Much for Grace


WINONA LAKE, Ind. -- It's been over a year since Grace's men's basketball team has given up 90 points. But Spring Arbor shot a scorching 63 percent from the field and routed Grace 93-79 to hand the Lancers their third conference loss on Saturday.

Both teams entered the game tied for fourth in the conference; however, Spring Arbor's victory gave them sole possession of third place in the MCC and bumped Grace down to sixth.

The Cougars (14-5; 4-2 MCC) got off to an 8-2 start and never looked back. Grace never got closer to two points throughout the game, and Spring Arbor led by as much as 20.

After shooting a mere 36 percent compared to Spring Arbor's 55 percent in the first half, the Lancers (13-6; 3-3 MCC) only trailed 40-34 going into intermission.

But it was all Spring Arbor in the second half. The Cougars went on a 13-4 run at the start of the period and led by double figures the remainder of the game. Spring Arbor seemingly got any shot they wanted, went to the free throw line 24 times and shot a sizzling 75 percent from the field.

Grace was outscored 38-22 in the paint on the evening and had only nine bench points to 32 for Spring Arbor.

Kyle Plumlee had a career-high 18 points on 2-of-2 from beyond the arc and 10-of-10 from the free throw line. He also tallied four assists and three steals.

David Swanson scored a quiet 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting and grabbed eight boards. Duke Johnson had 15 points and eight rebounds, and Elliot Smith recorded 11 points and four assists.

The last team to score 90 points on the Lancers (13-6; 3-3 MCC) was Lake Erie in triple overtime on Dec. 19, 2008.

After losing two of their last three conference games, Grace will try to pick up a victory at Saint Francis on Tuesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Six Lancers Score Double Figures in Win


UPLAND, Ind. -- Kyle Plumlee nailed a 3-point shot 19 seconds into the game and Grace never looked back, cruising to a 73-65 win over Taylor University.

The Lancers (13-5; 3-2 MCC) led by as many as 15 points and never trailed on Thursday. A trio of freshmen (Danny Goins, Elliot Smith, Tannan Peters) topped double figures in scoring to help pace a well-balanced Grace attack. Goins led the Lancers with 14 points off the bench, Peters tallied 12 points on 3-of-3 shooting and Smith added 11 points.

Grace shot a sizzling 61 percent from the field in the first half, including 6-of-7 from beyond the arc and a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line.

The Trojans (10-9; 1-4 MCC) played even with the Lancers throughout the second half but never got closer than six points as Grace moved into a tie for fourth place in the Mid-Central College Conference.

"We played much better and played with control," said head coach Jim Kessler. "We got an early lead and held it the rest of the time. Taylor made some runs but we responded with some big stops. Several players came off the bench and gave us great minutes and scoring."

Three other Lancers scored in double digits for the Lancers including center Duke Johnson, who recorded a double-double with 12 points and 12 boards. He also blocked four shots in the game. Kyle Plumlee had 11 points and David Swanson added 10 points.

Defensively, Smith and Stephen Kaufman held Taylor's Casey Coons, the Trojans' top scorer, to five points on the evening.

"It was a good team effort and I'm glad we bounced back after a dismal performance against Goshen on Tuesday," Kessler said. "We played with composure after a tough loss. That's a character tribute for our men to bounce back."

Grace returns to action at home against No. 25 Spring Arbor on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Grace Blows First Half Lead, Falls to Goshen


GOSHEN, Ind. -- The Lancers continued to be bewildered by Goshen as Grace's men's basketball team dropped its third straight to the Maple Leafs with a 76-66 loss on Tuesday night.

Grace held a double-digits lead in the first half, led by freshman Elliot Smith's 14 points. Smith nailed 3-of-4 from beyond the arc to give the Lancers
(12-5; 2-2 MCC) a 41-30 halftime lead.

But the second half was a completely different story.

The Maple Leafs (11-6; 2-1 MCC) grabbed seven more rebounds, took seven more shots and had 11 fewer turnovers (15 to 4) in the second half as Goshen blasted Grace by 21 points in the second half.

"We got exactly what we deserved," said head coach Jim Kessler. "We got outrebounded, turned the ball over, missed shots and didn’t defend. We failed to execute well in the second half."

Free throws proved to be a major advantage in the game for Goshen, especially in the second half. The Maple Leafs netted 15 points from the charity stripe, led by senior Errick McCollum's 11-of-13. McCullom scored 20 of his 27 in the second half. The Lancers, on the other hand, connected on only 6-of-14 in the final period.

Smith's 21 points led the scoring for Grace. Senior Kyle Plumlee was the only other Lancer in double figures with 11 points. Swanson was held in check for most of the game, tallying eight points and seven boards -- his first game under 13 points this season.

"In this conference, you can’t have a no-show. You must show up," Kessler continued. "Tonight was a brutal game on the road, and they simply outplayed us."

The Lancers return to action Thursday at Taylor University for a 7 p.m. tip-off.

First Half Shooting Leads to Lancer Win


BILLINGS, Mont. -- Yesterday, Grace put together their worst half of the year. On Wednesday, they had one of their best.

After giving up 55 points to Rocky Mountain College in the first half of yesterday's loss, Grace shot 74 percent in the first half of Wednesday's contest to defeat NAIA Div. I Carroll College 76-65 on the final day of the Hampton Inn Classic.

In the first half, the Lancers (12-4) shot 20-for-27 from the floor, drained four 3-pointers and outscored Carroll 46-33. Duke Johnson led the Lancers' dominance with 12 points in the half on 6-of-6 shooting while Elliot Smith tallied 11 points on 3-of-4 shooting from the 3-point line.

"It was a great half, especially after the frustrating first half in yesterday's game," said head coach Jim Kessler. "It was a good win against a solid Division I program."

The Fighting Saints (7-7) outscored Grace in the second half 32-30, but the first half deficit was too much to handle.

Johnson had a game-high 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, David Swanson tallied 16 points and grabbed 9 rebounds and Smith totaled 15 points on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. Grace outscored Carroll 34-20 in the paint.

The win was Grace's eighth victory in nine games.

The MCC season officially begins on Jan. 5 when the Lancers travel to Goshen College for a 3 p.m. start.

Rocky Mt. College Routs Grace, Winning Streak Ends


BILLINGS, Mont. -- Grace’s seven-game winning streak came to a halt on Tuesday in their 88-75 loss to NAIA Div. I Rocky Mountain College.

The Battlin’ Bears (4-10) opened with a full court press and jumped to a 15-point lead in the first five minutes of the game. Grace, a team that only gives up an average of 68.5 ppg, allowed 55 first half points and trailed 55-32 at the break.

“We lost the first five minutes of the game. It was over,” said head coach Jim Kessler. “The first half stats are unbelievably revealing.”

The Lancers (11-4) had 15 of their 21 turnovers in the first half; they had as many total rebounds as Rocky Mountain’s offensive rebounds (15); and they were outscored 16-0 on points off turnovers.

“They were much more athletic than we were,” Kessler said. “Their top five players are as good as any team we will see.”

Grace outscored the Bears 43-33 in the second half and shot 54 percent from the field compared to Rocky Mountain’s 37 percent. The rebounding battle, however, was far too lopsided. The Bears outrebounded Grace 45-27 overall and 24-5 on the offensive side.

“If you shot this well, you would expect to win,” Kessler said. “We got devastated on the boards. And rebounding is usually a strength of ours.”

David Swanson led the Lancers with 19 points and 8 rebounds while Daniel Goins added 14 points in his first start of the year, filling in for injured guard David Henry (back). Duke Johnson added 8 points and 7 rebounds.

“We just have to learn from this and go on,” Kessler said. “We need to get ready for MCC play. This will hone us and make us a better team.”

Grace plays Carroll College tomorrow at 6 p.m. on the second day of the Hampton Inn Classic.

Lancers Extend Winning Streak to Seven


CANTON, Ohio -- Grace's men's basketball team won its second game of the Canton Comfort Inn Classic with a 85-76 victory over Malone University.

The Lancers (11-3; 2-1 MCC) battled through eight ties and five lead changes in the first half to take a 42-40 advantage at halftime on a David Swanson layup in the final seconds. Elliot Smith nailed a trio of 3-pointers in the first half to help the Lancers stay on top. Smith finished with 21 points.

"It was a good team effort all the way from top to bottom," said head coach Jim Kessler. "They had some great shooters, but we hit the shots when we needed to. To go into the break at 11-3, we're wildly ecstatic."

Grace came out rolling in the second half, jumping to a 54-46 lead with 15:32 to play off a Kyle Plumlee layup. But the Pioneers (3-8) responded over the next five minutes, going on a 14-7 run to cut Grace's lead to 61-60 at the ten minute mark.

But Malone never got that close again as Grace responded with a 14-4 run of its own over the next three and a half minutes.

Pacing Grace was Smith and Swanson, who both finished with a game-high 21 points. Both players also shot well, with Smith nailing 4-of-5 from the 3-point line, and Swanson connecting on 8-of-10 from the field.

Duke Johnson played strong again with 18 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks, and Plumlee finished with 8 points and 4 steals. "Kyle had a terrific tournament," Kessler said. "He gives us that leadership, and he came up with some big steals to crack it open."

The Lancers used key contributions off the bench in the continued absence of starting guard David Henry (back injury). Lee Ross had a well-rounded effort in extended time with 5 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists, and Stephen Kaufman made all three of his shots to tally six points for Grace.

"We had some great minutes off our bench tonight," Kessler said. "We really miss (David) Henry's defense, which is why Kaufman was so valuable tonight. It definitely takes some pressure off (Henry) to ease his way back in."

After running its winning streak to seven games, Grace gets a week and a half break for Christmas. Their next game is at the Hampton Inn Classic in Billings, Mont. The Lancers face NAIA Div. I Rocky Mt. College, the defending national champion, on Dec. 29 at 8 p.m.

Johnson, Swanson Help Grace Topple No. 18 Daemen


CANTON, Ohio—Sophomore center Duke Johnson scored 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting, and a late three-point play by senior David Swanson helped Grace knock off No. 18 Daemen College 69-67 in the Canton Comfort Inn Classic.

The Lancers (10-3; 2-1 MCC) overcame 22 turnovers on the night with a dominant performance on the boards, outrebounding the Wildcats 38-17 en route to their sixth straight win.

"We had to board to finish this game," said head coach Jim Kessler. "We didn't take care of the basketball very well, so we had to make some plays late in the game."

Grace stayed in front the majority of the first half, leading by as much as 8 points. A Daemen layup with four seconds left cut Grace's lead to 35-31 at halftime.

The Wildcats (6-3) finally retook the lead at 65-60 with 3:03 remaining, courtesy of a 6-0 run. But Johnson responded with two buckets to bring Grace to within two, 66-64.

After a defensive stop by Grace with 46 seconds left, the Lancers sent the ball down low to the two-time defending MCC Player of the Week, and he delivered. Swanson hit a fadeaway from the right side with 21.1 seconds remaining and got fouled.

After making the free throw to put the Lancers up one, Swanson blocked Daemen's shot attempt on the other end. Senior Kyle Plumlee hit two more free throws after getting foul to ice the upset.

"Just another day at the office," Kessler joked. "We've done just enough to get by. I'm very pleased. However, we can still improve a great deal as a basketball team."

Swanson finished 13 points and 11 rebounds, his fourth consecutive double-double. Elliot Smith added 9 points and 4 assists, Plumlee recorded 8 points and 4 assists, and Daniel Goins sparked Grace off the bench with 8 of the team's 10 bench points.

Dayton Merrell, starting in the place of injured junior guard David Henry, also contributed seven points.

With both teams shooting over 50 percent from the field, the difference came at the free throw line. Although Daemen had 10 fewer turnovers than Grace, they could only manage to hit 12-of-24 from the charity stripe while the Lancers made 12-of-14.

The Lancers will take on Malone in the final game of the tournament at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Swanson Wins Second Straight POW


WINONA LAKE, Ind. -- David Swanson, senior co-captain forward for Grace's men's basketball team led the Lancers to a 3-0 week with three straight double-doubles.

He averaged 21.7 points per game and 11.0 rebounds per game. Swanson led all scorers against a win over IU-South Bend with 28 points on 13-18 shooting and 10 rebounds.

In the Terry Polston Hoops for Hope Classic (hosted by Grace), Swanson helped Grace College upset No. 11 Cornerstone University. He scored 17 points and 11 rebounds. In the finals against NAIA DI Robert Morris, he scored 20 points and 12 rebounds. The Lancers captured the title and Swanson was named the Tournament MVP.

Swanson was also named the NCCAA Student-Athlete of the Week for the second consecutive week for NCCAA Div. I.

Lancers Hold Off Robert Morris to Win Tourney


WINONA LAKE, Ind.—In the championship game of the Terry Polston Hoops for Hope Tournament at the Orthopaedic Capital Center, Grace’s men’s basketball team held on for a thrilling 73-71 win over NAIA Div. I Robert Morris University.

Robert Morris dominated much of the first half, leading by as many as 13. The Eagles (7-7) used stifling defense to hold the Lancers to just 39% shooting in the period.

Despite their poor shooting, the Lancers found themselves down just seven (43-36) at halftime, thanks to two big 3-pointers by Tannan Peters.

The Eagles also went cold from the floor in the second half. The Lancers (9-3; 2-1 MCC) forced perimeter shots from Robert Morris, most coming at the end of the shot clock. The Eagles shot just 1-for-9 from the 3-point line in the second half after hitting five from beyond the arc in the first period.

The Lancers went on a 6-0 run to start the half, but the visitors punched right back with a 12-3 run of their own to push the lead back to 10 at the 14 minute mark. Robert Morris held the advantage much of the second half before Grace stormed back, led by Lee Ross’ lockdown defense and two huge threes.

After trading field goals, Peters hit 1-of-2 free throws to give the Lancers a two point advantage with just 13.9 seconds remaining. Grace’s defense held off a desperation attempt by the Eagles to capture the tournament title after a disappointing fourth place finish a year ago.

David Swanson, who was named the Tournament MVP, led the team with 20 points and 11 rebounds, his second double-double in the tournament. Fellow senior Kyle Plumlee contributed 9 points, 9 assists and 4 steals while sophomore Duke Johnson added 14 points and 7 rebounds.

Elliot Smith was also named to the All-Tournament Team, and Kyle Plumlee was given the Mental Attitude Award.

"We had key producers come off the bench," said head coach Jim Kessler. "It was a good team effort, and that was a really solid team that we were playing. We thought that if it came down to the end, we could win it. We hit shots when we needed them and got stops when we needed them."

The Lancers are back in action next week, facing #18 Daemen to open the McKinley Grand-Malone Tournament in Canton, Ohio.

Kessler Wins 600th in Thriller Over No. 11 Cornerstone


WINONA LAKE, Ind. -- Jim Kessler reached the 600-victory milestone in Grace's 74-73 win over No. 11 Cornerstone on Friday, their fifth win in a row. And he earned it in dramatic fashion.

Cornerstone sparked a 20-6 run in the second half and took a 69-68 lead with 2:27 remaining in the game. It was the Eagles' (8-4) first lead since the 9:03 mark in the first half. Elliot Smith responded with a clutch fadeaway jumper as the shot clock expired to give Grace a one-point advantage.

After trading baskets, Cornerstone's Matt Kingshott scored in the paint to give the Eagles a 73-72 lead with 40 seconds remaining. Freshman Duke Johnson was fouled on the other end, and he converted on two big-time free-throws to give Grace a slight edge. In the final possession of the game, Cornerstone missed two shot attempts in the paint to fall by one point.

"That's a really special game," Kessler said. "It's a great win for our team. We let the lead slip away at the end and had to come from behind."

Grace trailed 20-22 in the first half before going on a 10-0 run with five minutes remaining. The Lancers (8-3; 2-1 MCC) held onto the lead and entered halftime with a 42-31 advantage.

Cornerstone implemented a zone defense in the second half, and Grace only scored seven ponits in the first nine minutes. The Eagles outscored the Lancers 42-32 in the second half.

In the absence of starter David Henry who was sidelined with a back injury, Grace's bench played strong, tallying 24 points. Tannan Peters was 3-for-3 from beyond the arc and added 10 points while Daniel Goins scored 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting.

"Without David, some people had to step up," Kessler continued. "We had four freshman and three sophomores get a lot of minutes tonight. That's a great team effort. It took everybody."

The Lancers drained 26-of-29 free throws compared to Cornerstone's 14-of-19.

David Swanson had another solid night, tallying 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Duke Johnson had 12 points and 7 boards while Elliot Smith had 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting.

Kessler has a career record of 600-469 and has a .561 winning percentage.

"Well, it's a product of two things," Kessler said. "You have to have good people around you and you have to be at a place for a long time. I've had great assistants and great players through the years. When you have young men of character around you, you will win your share."

Grace plays in the championship game of the Terry Polston Hoops for Hope tournament against Robert Morris at 3 p.m. tomorrow. Cornerstone and Columbia square off at 1 p.m. in the consolation game.

Lancer Bigs Dominate in Win over IU-South Bend


SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- In a game in which the outside shots continued to misfire for the Lancers, the post play for Grace College's men's basketball team proved to be the difference in their 80-65 win over IU-South Bend.

The win also moved head coach Jim Kessler to within one victory of reaching 600 career head coaching wins. Kessler's all-time record is 599-469.

Senior David Swanson, who was recently named the Mid-Central College Conference Player of the Week, carried the team with 28 points on 13-of-18 from the field to go along with 10 rebounds. Close behind was sophomore Duke Johnson, who tallied his own double-double with 18 points and 10 boards.

The Lancers (7-3; 2-1 MCC) jumped out to a 44-30 lead at the break over the Titans (2-10) despite knocking down just 1-of-10 shots from beyond the 3-point line. Grace also struggled from the free throw line, hitting just over 50 percent of their attempts (11-of-19).

Freshman Elliot Smith hit Grace's only 3-point shots of the night. He finished with 11 points. Senior point guard Kyle Plumlee had a well-rounded night with 6 points, 8 boards and 2 assists.

Playing well off the bench for the Lancers was Dayton Merrell and Stephen Kaufman. Merrell dished out a game-high four assists for Grace and added four points in 14 minutes of action, while Kaufman recorded four points and five rebounds in nine minutes.

"It was nice to see Swanson and Johnson play big in the post tonight," Kessler said. "Our team is clicking right now, so we'll see if we can continue that play for our upcoming tournament."

Grace returns to action this weekend in the Terry Polston Hoops for Hope Tournament at the Orthopaedic Capital Center. All proceeds from the two-day tournament will be donated to the Kosciusko County Cancer Care Fund. The Lancers square off against Cornerstone University at 8 p.m. on Friday.

Swanson Named MCC Player of the Week


WINONA LAKE, Ind. -- After leading the Lancers to a pair of tough Mid-Central College Conference wins, senior forward David Swanson was named the MCC Player of the Week. In two games, he averaged 23.0 points per game and 8.0 rebounds per game.

In Grace's 66-62 overtime victory over No. 12 Huntington University, Swanson scored nine of the Lancers's 13 points to complete the upset bid. With his first points against the Foresters, Swanson also joined the 1,000 point club. For his career, Swanson has scored 1,020 points.

Grace Knocks Off Undefeated Huntington in Overtime


WINONA LAKE, Ind. -- Grace's men's basketball team overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to knock off previously undefeated, No. 12 Huntington University 66-62 in overtime.

The Lancers (6-3; 2-1 MCC) got off to a slow start as the Foresters (10-1; 1-1 MCC), jumped out to an early 19-5 lead. After trailing by 14 points, Grace picked up the intensity and went on a 16-5 run over the next 6:08 to cut the deficit to 21-24.

The Foresters came out shooting 44 percent from the field in the first half compared to Grace’s 31 percent. A put-back at the buzzer gave Huntington a 32-22 advantage at the break. Once again the Lancers shot poorly from beyond the arc going 4-21 (21%) in the game.

Grace opened up the second half with a 13-5 run, capped off by a thunderous dunk by sophomore Dayton Merrell, to bring the Lancers within two points midway through the second half. Three minutes later, sophomore Duke Johnson gave the Lancers their first lead of the game at 41-39 with 8:45 to play.

Back-and-forth scoring by both teams left the Lancers down three with 13 seconds left on the clock. Poor free-throw shooting down the stretch by the Foresters left the door open for Grace. After two huge misses at the line by Caleb Kennedy, Grace got possession, pushed the ball up the court and freshman Elliot Smith knocked down the 3-point shot of the night to tie the game at 53 apiece with three seconds left in regulation.

"We executed down the stretch, made our free throws and came up with defensive stops that put us in a position to win the game," said head coach Jim Kessler. "I was pleased with our composure and our execution against a very good Huntington team."

Senior David Swanson was forced to the sideline in the second half with foul trouble, but he came alive in the overtime period scoring nine of his game-high 21 points. With his first points of the game, Swanson joined Grace's 1,000 point club. He currently has 1,020 points for his career.

The ballgame was won at the free-throw line with Grace going 12-13 down the stretch compared to Huntington’s 5-10.

Duke Johnson had 12 points and had a team-high 10 rebounds, David Henry tallied 13 points and eight assists, and Elliot Smith had 14 points.

The Lancers return to action Tuesday as they travel up the road to take on IU-South Bend with game time scheduled for 7 p.m.

Lancers Grab First MCC Win


WINONA LAKE, Ind. -- Grace's men's basketball team overcame a woeful day from the 3-point line to grab its first Mid-Central College Conference win of the season with a 63-57 win over Marian University.

The Lancers (5-3; 1-1 MCC) shot a dismal 1-for-19 beyond the arc and didn't connect on a 3-point shot until six minutes remaining in the game.

"Although we struggled shooting, our bigs were dominant," said head coach Jim Kessler. "We hammered them on the boards in the second half."

After finding themselves down 30-29 at halftime to the Knights (4-4; 0-2 MCC), senior David Swanson showed why he was named a co-captain with five straight points in the second half. That run with under ten minutes remaining gave the Lancers a 44-39 lead which they wouldn't relinquish.

Grace hit only 19-of-51 from the field (37.3%) but had assists on 13 of those 19 buckets. Swanson recorded a game-high 25 points, and David Henry added 13 points, 3 assists and 3 steals.

The Lancers also capitalized on the boards by outrebounding Marian by 12. Duke Johnson led all players with 14 rebounds (four offensive), and Swanson was right behind with 12.

"Hopefully we got that bad shooting out of our system," Kessler continued. "We'll try to get back on track in time for Huntington."

The Lancers return to action Saturday as they welcome the Foresters of Huntington to the OCC for a 3 p.m. tip-off.

No. 3 Bethel Edges Grace on Buzzer Beater


MISHAWAKA, Ind. -- A last second shot has determined the outcome of Grace's last two games. This time, Grace was on the wrong end.

Bethel's Tyler Brown hit the game-winning field goal with 1.2 seconds left in regulation to give the Pilots (6-0; 1-0 MCC) an 86-85 victory over Grace, their 25th consecutive home victory.

Grace had a 10-point cushion (35-25) with eight minutes remaining in the first half. Bethel, however, answered with a 19-10 spurt just before the intermission to close the gap to 45-44 at the break.

Bethel came out strong in the second half and jumped to a 56-49 advantage. Grace slowly climbed back and tied the score 68-68 with five minutes remaining.

The Lancers (4-3; 0-1 MCC) built a 77-70 lead late in the game but Bethel responded with a 3-point field goal to keep the game close.

With under a minute left, Grace had an 83-80 advantage, but a pair of free throws and a clutch basket put the Pilots on top 84-83 with 19 seconds remaining.

Grace senior David Swanson was fouled with seven seconds remaining and drained two clutch free throws to give the Lancers a one-point lead before Bethel's Brown hit the game-winner on the other end.

Swanson led all scorers with 25 points, David Henry added 14 and Elliot Smith had 13.

Grace continues conference play at home against Marian College on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Smith Hits Game-Winner Against Manchester


NORTH MANCESTER, Ind. -- Grace freshman Elliot Smith hit a game-winning jumper with three seconds remaining to give the Lancers a 77-76 victory over Manchester in the championship game of the Manchester Tip-Off Tournament on Saturday.

Down by two points with 35 seconds remaining, the Lancers’ Dayton Merrell, who just found his way back into the lineup after a back injury, hit a clutch 3-pointer to give Grace a one point advantage. Manchester’s Tyler Delauder hit a jumper on the other end with 15 seconds left in the game.

When Grace turned it over with 10 seconds remaining, a Lancer loss seemed likely. Forced to foul, Grace sent Manchester’s Jason Spindler to the free-throw line. Spindler missed both free throws and Grace’s David Swanson grabbed the rebound with 8.6 seconds left. Smith caught Swanson’s pass, penetrated to the right elbow and swooshed a fadeaway jumper with 1.2 seconds left to give Grace the win.

David Henry had a game-high 20 points to go along with his 19 points in yesterday’s game. He was named Tournament MVP for his solid performance.

Smith tallied 14 points, Swanson added 14 points and eight rebounds and Duke Johnson had 12 points on 5-of-5 shooting. Swanson was named to the All-Tournament team along with Henry.

The Lancers (4-2) open conference season against conference rival Bethel College in Mishawaka on Tuesday. Game time is 7 p.m.

Henry Leads Lancers in Victory over Concordia


WINONA LAKE, Ind. -- After going 3-for-16 in last weekend’s tournament in Iowa, Grace guard David Henry responded just like a shooter should. He kept shooting.

Henry had a game-high 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting in the Lancers’ 69-46 victory over Concordia (Mich.) on Friday. With the win, the Lancers advance to the championship game of the Manchester College Tip-Off Tournament against Manchester on Saturday.

Grace built an early 17-7 lead over the Cardinals (2-3) and led by as much as 20 in the first half. Henry had 10 of his points in the first half on 4-for-5 shooting.

“We were able to get out and run early,” said head coach Jim Kessler. “We shot the ball well early, and we were able to sustain things. We played much more intense.”

The Lancers had a 42-27 lead at halftime and built a 29-point lead in the second half. Grace (4-2) had a 20-point lead or more for the last 17 minutes of the game, and they held their opponent to just 19 points in the second half.

No Concordia player grabbed an offensive rebound in the second half and Grace outrebounded the Cardinals 50-30 in the game. The Lancers had 13 turnovers on the day, their fourth game in a row with 16 or fewer turnovers.

“So far, this is our best all-around performance this season in terms of intensity and focus,” Kessler said.

David Swanson and Duke Johnson both recorded double-doubles on the day. Johnson had 15 points and 12 rebounds while Swanson recorded 15 points and 11 rebounds, his fourth double-double of the year.

Danny Goins scored 11 of the team’s 13 bench points after missing the last three games due to an ankle injury.

Grace plays Manchester at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Lancers Pound Cincinnati Christian


WINONA LAKE, Ind. -- Grace's men's basketball team cruised to a 67-40 win over Cincinnati Christian College on Tuesday.

All 16 players that dressed played for the Lancers while the Crusaders played their starting five the entire game due to a lack of players. The game will be counted as an exhibition because Cincinnati Christian is not an accredited institution.

"We needed an opportunity to give some of our bench players a chance to play," said head coach Jim Kessler. "We are learning who can contribute in different roles."

Grace's defense held the Crusaders to 31.9% shooting including 1-for-11 from the three point line. The Lancers (2-2) on the other hand, shot 48.3% for the game including 51.5% in the first half.

Senior forward David Swanson led all players with 16 points and 10 rebounds, his third double-double of the year. He was 8-of-11 from the field and also finished with a team-high three assists.

Nine different players recorded assists for the Lancers including three apiece from Swanson, Elliot Smith, Duke Johnson and Nick Achille.

Dayton Merrell saw his first extensive action of the year after recovering from two bulging discs in his back. He had six points on 3-of-4 shooting in nine minutes of play.

"We hadn't seen Dayton in a while," Kessler said. "It was good to have him back and see him get the jitters out."

Smith had 13 points and four rebounds, David Henry tallied 11 points and drained his first three 3-pointers and Johnson had 10 points, six rebounds and three steals.

The Lancers travel to Manchester, Ind. for the Manchester College Tournament on Friday and Saturday. Grace plays Concordia at 6 p.m. on Friday.

Grace Fades in Second Half, Falls to St. Ambrose


DAVENPORT, Iowa -- After a cold night of shooting on Friday, Grace's Elliot Smith responded with 16 points in the first half against St. Ambrose on Saturday. But the Lancers forgot to get the ball to the hot hand in the second half.

Smith didn't score a point in the second half in a 81-67 loss to the Fighting Bees

According to head coach Jim Kessler, the second half effort was not there. Grace only scored four points in the first six minutes of the half, and St. Ambrose maintained the lead the entire half. After scoring 43 in the first period, Grace only scored 24 after halftime.

"Last night in the second half against St. Francis, we really showed gamesmanship," Kessler said. "Tonight was just the opposite. We forgot there were two halves in every game, and we forgot about Elliot and didn't go back to him."

Grace had an eight-point lead with two minutes remaining in the first half before St. Ambrose went on a 10-2 to tie the game at halftime, 43-43.

"We still scored points, but we just didn't defend well enough," Kessler said. "We gave up 43 points in a half, and we need to do better. We had a rash of defensive miscues. It's part of that learning curve."

Senior forward David Swanson led the Lancers with 18 points and 9 rebounds. Smith added 16 points, and Duke Johnson tallied 13. Kyle Plumlee recorded 11 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, and David Henry had 7 assists and 6 points.

Grace had only three points off the bench compared to 18 for the Fighting Bees. St. Ambrose also had seven more offensive rebounds than Grace (15-8).

The Lancers return to action at home against Cincinnati Christian College on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Post Players Big in Lancer Victory


DAVENPORT, Iowa -- Grace College's post players may be scarce this season, but the three of them combined for 39 of the Lancers' 65 points in their 65-56 victory over Saint Francis (Ill.) on Friday.

Senior forward David Swanson recorded his second double-double of the year with a game-high 19 points, 14 rebounds and four steals. Sophomore center Duke Johnson tallied 14 points and five rebounds while freshman forward Jordan Hoffman led the Lancers (2-1) off bench with six points.

"In any game, you have to have players make plays," said head coach Jim Kessler. "We didn't shoot well from the perimeter, and our post players stepped up against a really nice set of big men. They will be one of the biggest factors for us to play well this year."

Grace's guards showed their first sign of mortality from the 3-point line this season, staggering to 22.2% shooting from beyond the arc, the first time they have shot under 40 percent this season. Dave Henry and Elliot Smith were uncharacteristic with a combined 4-for-18 from the field. Kyle Plumlee led the guards in scoring with 10 points and eight rebounds.

The Lancers shot 33.3% from the field in the first half and trailed the Fighting Saints (1-5) 26-24 at the half.

"We got a lot of good looks that wouldn't fall," Kessler said. "But there was real composure in the locker room. I knew we would shoot better in the second half."

The Lancers' offense drastically improved in the second half. They shot 46.9% from the field and according to Kessler, only had two turnovers after 10 in the first half. They outscored Saint Francis 41-30.

Their free-throw shooting also topped 70 percent for the first time this season as they went 10-for-13 on the day.

Grace plays St. Ambrose University on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Lancers Fall to Indiana Tech for First Loss


FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Grace's difficult nonconference schedule began Tuesday night against Indiana Institute of Technology, who is receiving votes in the NAIA poll.

The Lancers were not able to recover from a 10-point deficit at halftime, falling to Indiana Tech 82-71.

Statistically, Grace had a solid game. The team continued to trim its turnover total, decreasing from 25 in the exhibition game against Indiana University to 21 in the regular season opener against Ohio University-Eastern to 16 on Tuesday against the Warriors (1-2).

Even though Grace's post players stayed out of foul trouble, rebounding was an issue for the Lancers' (1-1) three-guard lineup. Grace was outrebounded 33-26 and gave up 13 Warrior offensive rebounds.

Both teams shot well from the field, with Grace hitting 50 percent and Indiana at 53 percent. The Lancers connected on 8-of-17 from beyond the arc, including a perfect 4-of-4 in the first half. However, Grace converted on only 64.3 percent from the free throw line. The men have yet to top 70 percent from the charity stripe this year.

The Lancers' starters carried the scoring load, led by freshman Elliot Smith's game-high 18 points. Smith hit four 3-pointers and hit 7-of-13 shots overall. Eighty-three percent of Grace's scoring came from the starting five. Senior David Swanson finished with 14 points and four rebounds.

David Henry had 13 points, including 3-of-6 from beyond the arc, and Duke Johnson tallied 13 points and grabbed eight boards. Kyle Plumlee dished out eight assists in 24 minutes before fouling out.

Dayton Merrell saw his first action of the season on Tuesday after recovering from two bulging discs in his back. Merrell played three minutes off the bench and took one shot. Grace still awaits the return of Jake Peattie, who is sidelined with a back injury.

The Lancers travel to Iowa this weekend for the St. Ambrose Classic. Grace plays No. 23 St. Francis at 5:30 p.m. Friday, and they play the host St. Ambrose University on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Swanson Leads Lancers in Homecoming Victory


WINONA LAKE, Ind.-- In Grace College’s exhibition game against Indiana University on Wednesday, senior forward David Swanson’s minutes were limited due to early foul trouble. That wasn’t the case on Grace’s homecoming and season opener on Saturday.

Swanson didn’t earn his first foul until the beginning of the second half and only had two fouls on the day. As a result, he played 32 minutes, tallied 26 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked three shots in the Lancers’ 77-61 victory over Ohio University Eastern.

"I thought David Swanson did a really good job of stepping up,” said head coach Jim Kessler. “Last year, he had Eric (Gaff). This game, he had to step up and be the man. He responded.”

The Lancers (1-0) had a shaky start and scored only nine points in the first six minutes of the game. Grace’s defense, however, kept the score tight when their offense wasn’t meshing.

“I didn’t feel like in the first half that we had the kind of intensity that we needed to have,” Kessler continued. “It took a little wake up call to get the intensity up.”

The first nine minutes featured five ties and three lead changes before Grace took the lead at the 11:21 mark and never looked back. The Lancers led by as much as 11 in the first half and entered the intermission up by seven.

The Panthers (1-1) got within one point at the beginning of the second half but Swanson scored the Lancers’ next six points, leading Grace on an 8-0 run.

Swanson added six more on a 13-1 run mid-way through the second half to help the Lancers build a 17-point lead. Freshman Elliot Smith drained a big three to give Grace a comfortable cushion, contributing 11 points on the game. The Lancers led by as many as 22.

Defensively, junior Stephen Kaufman rose to the challenge in the second half. The Panthers’ Jason Shaw scored 27 points on the day but Kaufman helped slow him down.

“Steve Kaufman was the stopper,” Kessler said. “I’m not sure he (Shaw) scored one field goal on Steve. That was a huge factor in getting the game under control.”

Kaufman along with the rest of Grace’s bench had a significant impact on the victory. Daniel Goins added 11 points off the bench, and the Lancers had 29 bench points overall. 11 players scored on the evening.

Grace plays an athletic Indiana Tech team in Fort Wayne at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The Warriors received votes in the NAIA preseason poll but recently suffered losses to Huntington and Mount Vernon Nazarene.

Grace Hangs With IU


WINONA LAKE, Ind. -- For the first 25 minutes, Grace College gave Indiana University a scare.

With 15 minutes remaining in the game, the Hoosiers were up by a mere two points before outscoring Grace 48-27 down the stretch to defeat the Lancers 96-73 at Assembly Hall on Wednesday.

“We knew that we would be pushed because of how well Grace runs their offense,” said Indiana University head coach Tom Crean. “We certainly weren't surprised by that.”

The first half alone included nine ties and eight lead changes.

After IU’s Christian Watford scored in the first four seconds of the game, Lancer guard David Henry calmed the team’s nerves and drained a trilogy of 3-pointers, scoring nine of Grace’s first 12 points.

“I was open so I shot it,” Henry laughed. “My dad told me two things before the game: Don’t get hurt, and if you have an inch, shoot it.”

The lead went back and forth for the first three minutes of the game before Grace’s Elliot Smith scored on a put-back to give Grace a 14-12 advantage at the 16:30 mark. The Lancers didn’t trail the next four minutes.

“We knew they would be well coached and play extremely well,” Crean continued. “They never stopped running.”

Grace’s David Swanson racked up his second foul seven minutes into the game, and IU regained the lead soon after. Grace hung tough despite their post players’ foul trouble, tied the game three times and took their first lead in four and a half minutes at the 8:07 mark.

The Hoosiers led by as many as five until the 1:33 mark when Smith stole the ball from IU’s Verdell Jones III and drained a 3-pointer on the other end to tie the game at 36.

The momentum appeared to shift toward the Lancers, but Indiana responded with six points in the final minute, capitalizing off two Lancer turnovers.

Grace’s guards carried the offensive load when the Lancers’ big men got in foul trouble, scoring 30 of their 36 first half points. Swanson picked up his third foul at the 5:27 mark, limiting his playing time to 13 minutes, and Jordan Hoffman accumulated two fouls. Grace’s only center, Duke Johnson had just two points in the first half, but he tallied four blocks and five rebounds. Starting guards Henry and Smith led the Lancers with nine points apiece.

After a slow first half, Grace’s big men scored 19 of their 37 second-half points. And Swanson did most of it with four fouls.

He picked up his fourth foul of the game only 46 seconds into the second half and didn’t return until the 13:40 mark.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed that I didn’t play the whole game,” Swanson said. “I got in foul trouble early and had four fouls the whole second half. That made me play pretty timid. I couldn’t lay it all on the line like I wanted to.”

Swanson returned in the midst of a 14-2 Hoosier run and tallied 15 points in 11 minutes of action.

Indiana, however, profited from 15 second-half Lancer turnovers and out-rebounded Grace 28-17, including 13 offensive rebounds. IU built a 25-point lead, their largest of the game, with three minutes remaining in the game. Both teams had phased in their reserves at that point.

IU’s Christian Watford and Swanson led all scorers with 19 points apiece, Swanson doing his damage in 25 minutes of action.

“We stood toe-to-toe with a division one Big 10 team,” Swanson said. “I don’t think any of us are scared.”

Smith had 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including a pair of 3-pointers; Henry had 12 points on 4-of-7 beyond the arc; Plumlee had 11 points on six assists and four steals; and Johnson had six blocks and led Grace in rebounding with nine rebounds.

Indiana’s bench played a huge roll, scoring 38 points to Grace’s 11. The Hoosiers also dominated in the middle, outrebounding Grace by 13 and outscoring the Lancers 58-34 in the paint. They had eight players in double figures.

The exhibition game was the first time the Lancers and Hoosiers have met one another on the basketball floor and with 15,453 in attendance, it was the biggest crowd the Lancers have ever played in front of.

Said 33-year veteran head coach Jim Kessler: “We said on the bus, ‘If you don’t believe that you can do this, then just sit on the bus. But if you believe you can, if you determine you are ready to do it, then let’s get off the bus and go play.’ I couldn’t be more proud of my men.”