Pictured is Logan Irwin driving to the basket in the second half against Bethel on Saturday.
Grace’s men’s basketball team missed a chance to sweep archrival Bethel on Saturday, falling 74-70 in a nailbiting contest.
The Lancers (21-9, 11-7 Crossroads League) led by 13 points late in the first half, but strong shooting from No. 12 Bethel in the second half spoiled Grace’s upset bid in front of a frenzied, near-capacity crowd at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center.
Grace led for all but two possessions in the first half in a balanced 20 minutes. Three straight jumpers from Niko Read spurred Grace’s offensive momentum midway into the half as the Lancers grabbed a 24-13 lead after 12 minutes of play.
The Lancers pulled ahead and were seemingly in control of the half with the score 34-21 on a 3-pointer by Chad Hoffer with4:30 remaining. But Grace went cold down the stretch. Grace did not score a point for the final 4:30 of the period, allowing the Pilots (25-5, 13-5 CL) to close the half on a 9-0 run.
Grace was still in front 34-30 at halftime. The Lancers made 44 percent from the floor and held the Pilots to 34 percent shooting, and Grace also capitalized on the Pilots’ miscues by scoring 13 points off Bethel’s six turnovers.
While Grace was still on top by seven in the early minutes of the second half, Bethel’s outside shooting cut into Grace’s cushion. The Pilots finally went ahead at 55-53 with 9:21 on the clock, and the Lancers never tasted the lead again.
The teams traded baskets over the final nine minutes, but Bethel always had the timely response it needed. The Pilots were especially clutch at the free throw line, hitting 15-of-18 for the game and seven foul shots over the last four minutes of the game.
Logan Irwin led Grace’s comeback, converting two tough driving shots to cut the margin to 71-68 with 3:13 on the clock. Grace then made two defensive stops in a row, but the Lancers came up empty on consecutive offensive possessions. Grace was then forced to foul, and the Pilots made their shots in the final minutes.
Bethel’s shooting struggles disappeared in the second half. The Pilots made 52 percent from the floor, 75 percent (6-of-8) from the 3-point line and 83 percent (10-of-12) from the foul line after halftime.
Grace was outrebounded by nine in the game and also took 10 fewer foul shots.
Irwin led Grace in scoring with 17 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Read added 15 points with a trio of 3-pointers, and Hoffer had 11 points off the bench. Dennis Williams tallied 10 points, 6 boards, 3 assists and 2 blocks, and Brandon Vanderhegghen chipped in nine points.
The Lancers will turn their attention to next week’s Crossroads League Tournament. Grace, the CL’s No. 4 seed, will host fifth-seeded Mt. Vernon Nazarene on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the first round.