The NCCAA National Championships for Grace kicked off with a wild quarterfinal matchup with third-seeded Bethesda on Wednesday.
The Flames’ blistering pace unraveled the Lady Lancers as Grace lost 87-82 at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center.
Grace struggled to adjust to Bethesda’s frenetic pace in the first half. The Flames’ run-and-gun style of play produced an incredible 32 shots from the 3-point line. Grace’s defense held Bethesda to just 16 percent shooting on 3’s (5-of-32).
Bethesda’s fullcourt trapping defense was equally disruptive. Grace committed 16 turnovers before halftime to hamper its cause.
Offensively, Grace was adept at getting to the foul line. The Lady Lancers (17-16) took 18 free throws in the first half and made 16 (89 percent). Allison Kauffman had nearly half of Grace’s points with 16 in the first 20 minutes.
The Flames (12-17) pulled out to a 10-point margin after four minutes of play in the second half at 50-40, but the Lady Lancers clawed back into contention. Grace ripped off 14 points in a four-minute span to chop Bethesda’s lead down to two.
But Grace was unable to wrestle away the lead from Bethesda as the Flames’ 3-point shots began to fall. Bethesda re-established a double-digit lead with 6:16 to play. Bethesda led by as many as 15 points with just over two minutes remaining before Grace went on a valiant comeback attempt. The Lady Lancers outscored the Flames 14-4 over the last two minutes, but it was not enough to send Grace into the national semifinals.
Grace shot 14 3-pointers in the game and made none. The Lady Lancers connected on 37 percent of their field goals compared to 32 percent for the Flames. Bethesda forced Grace into 22 turnovers, scoring 20 points off those miscues.
Kauffman notched 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Sarah Feasby added another double-double with 14 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Gabby Bryant had nine points and five rebounds, and JoEllen Fickel, Micah Pollard and Heather House each tallied eight points.
The chaotic contest saw a combined 36 turnovers, 64 3-point shots and 34 offensive rebounds. Bethesda fired up 50 treys and had 90 field goal attempts on their own.
The Lady Lancers fall into the consolation bracket of the tournament, starting with a game against Southern Wesleyan on Thursday at 1:45 p.m. The Grace/SWU contest will be a rematch of last season’s seventh-place game which the Warriors won in the final seconds. Grace will conclude its season on Friday in either the fifth or seventh-place game.