The LAB — Live from Branson

Click here to follow the Grace men’s basketball team on their quest for an NAIA national championship in Branson, Mo. Grace’s sports information department will provide stories, analysis, photos, blog posts, video interviews and highlights from the NAIA Division II men’s basketball tournament continually throughout the week.

Wednesday, March 2
Thursday, March 3
Friday, March 4
Saturday, March 5
Sunday, March 6
Monday, March 7
Tuesday, March 8
Wednesday, March 9
Thursday, March 10

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Lancer Dream Ends — 3/10/11 (8:50 p.m.)

Dakota Wesleyan opened up the second half with an 11-7 run to take back the lead at 43-42 early in the second half.

For Grace, Greg Miller came out hot in the second half scoring seven of the first nine points in the half.

Later, Grimm slashed to the basket and dished it off to Johnson for a deuce to bring the Lancers within four. After a trey from Wesleyan’s Jake Kneeland, Grace forced a pair of turnovers, but was unable to capitalize.

Grace hit a shooting slump in the second half and Dakota Wesleyan mounted a 20-6 run to take control of the game for good.

With 8:03 remaining, the Lancers found themselves trailing 50-58 and their hopes of making a deep run were slowly fading. However, Elliot Smith had something to say about that. He nailed a deep triple to bring the Lancers within five. But that was not enough as Dakota Wesleyan upped the lead to nine with 4:01 remaining in the contest.

With less than four minutes to play, Dakota Wesleyan’s Chase Walder hit the dagger three to stretch the Tiger lead to 12 points. Grace was unable to start a run and cut the deficit.

Over a span of 11 seconds in the final minute, David Henry hit a pair of threes in desperation to bring the Lancers within seven. But it was too little, too late. Grace was forced to foul and the lead got to nine.

In the final minute, senior Stephen Kaufman checked into the lineup one last time as a Lancer.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, all the Grace hopeful that made the trip to Branson gave the Lancers one final applause in thanks for a great season. The final score read Grace College 62, Dakota Wesleyan 71.

Click here to check out and download photos from Grace’s opening round game against Dakota Wesleyan.

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Lancers Lead at Halftime — 3/10/11 (7:26 p.m.)

Game day has finally arrived. The team rolled into town on Monday evening. It is now Thursday. In talking with members of the team, they are itching to get out on the floor and play. The much anticipated tipoff time would have to wait as play was delayed throughout the morning session because of scoreboard issues.

During halftime of the Northwood vs. Fisher game, the guys hit the floor to shoot around a bit before getting the official team picture taken.  From there it was back to the locker room to go over the game plan one final time.

After the final buzzer sounded, ten minutes were put on the scoreboard. Only ten minutes remained before tipoff between Grace College and Dakota Wesleyan. Lancer Nation has a presence here in Branson, with around 100 Grace fans in attendance.

Grace starters include Duke Johnson, David Henry, Greg Miller, Elliot Smith, and Bruce Grimm Jr.

In the opening minutes, neither team could produce much offense with the score being 4-2 Dakota Wesleyan after nearly five minutes of play. Freshman Greg Miller put the first points of the tournament on the board for the Lancers followed by a 3-pointer from Henry. Grace trailed early 7-10 at the first timeout with 12:55 remaining in the first half.

Grace’s shooting woes continued going almost three minutes without a basket. However, Henry again nailed a trey to bring the Lancers within four at 10-14. With seven minutes remaining in the half, Grace was down nine points before Miller hit a three from the left wing

Bruce Grimm scored his first points of the tournament as he slashed to the right block and backed in the runner.

Grace took its first lead of the game at 24-23 on back-to-back buckets from Duke Johnson. Grimm followed with a free throw line jumper to increase the lead to three with 3:24 remaining in the half. Jake Peattie put in a reverse layup on the assist from Grimm to give Grace a seven point lead. The lead came on the heels of a 15-0 run by the Lancers.

Dakota Wesleyan pulled within three to close out the half. The Lancers lead the Tigers 35-32 at the break here from Keeter Gymnasium in Point Lookout, Missouri.

Duke Johnson leads Grace with 11 points and six rebounds. Greg miller has seven points and three boards. Henry has a pair of treys and four rebounds.

By Adam Basinger

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Scouting Report: Grace vs. Dakota Wesleyan — 3/10/11 (2:29 a.m.)

Head coach Jim Kessler feels like his team has spent three weeks preparing for Dakota Wesleyan. And they almost have.

Thursday night, however, Grace’s time will have finally come. The No. 15 Lancers (22-10), who earned the sixth at-large bid, will go up against the evenly matched Tigers (23-8) of Dakota Wesleyan, the seventh-at large bid, on Thursday evening.

And Kessler believes the Lancers are ready.

In our interview with Kessler, conducted on his scenic back porch at the Hotel Grand Victorian (he insisted we try to capture the pine tree in the background), “Coach K” hit on several things for Thursday night’s game. The video, after all, is nearly nine minutes long.

Two things Kessler stressed were 1) Shutting down senior Brady Wiebe and 2) Defending the 3-pointer.

Wiebe, who ranks No. 15 in the nation in points per game (20.0), has attempted—get this—a whopping 348 free throws this season, knocking down 270 of them (77.6 percent).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PQMxfx-o7E[/youtube]

Let’s dissect that a little more. Three hundred and forty-eight free throws. The entire team has only taken 837 free throws this year. That’s 41.6 percent of the team’s free throws. That’s 11 free throws a game. That’s only three less free throws than his attempted field goals (351). And of those field goals, he’s made 175 of them. So…per every made field goal, he attempts nearly two free throws to along with it. Yikes.

Even the Black Hills State players in the hot tub last night were raving/ranting about how Wiebe has a knack for getting to the free throw line. “He’ll tick you off,” one of them said.

Luckily, Grace is prepared for Wiebe considering this year’s MCC season could be dubbed “the year of the flop” as Kessler says.

Regardless, have fun guarding him, Duke Johnson.

The other key for tomorrow night is defending the 3-pointer, as the Tigers rank No. 42 in the NAIA in 3-point percentage (35.3).  They have five players shooting above 35 percent from beyond the arc, led by Chase Walder who ranks No. 23 in the nation with 77 made 3-pointers. Walder is Wesleyan’s Dave Henry.

A good sign for Grace is that they have contended the 3-pointer well all season and actually rank No. 1 in America in 3-point field goal percentage defense (28.5 percent). If Grace plays like they have all year, Wesleyan’s threatening presence from downtown shouldn’t give the Lancers any problems.

On Thursday night, it begins. With a victory, they’ll most likely have their hands full with legend Rollie Massimino’s Northwood University in the second round. But for now, maybe they can just keep Wiebe off the free throw line.

By Justin Oren and Steve Copeland

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Ride the Ducks — 3/9/11 (11:45 p.m.)

After morning practice at the Branson RecPlex, the team came back to the hotel for a film session on Dakota Wesleyan. After analyzing game tape, the guys went to Chester’s Restaurant with team sponsor Hawthorn Bank.

After dinner, the guys headed to “Ride the Ducks”. Like the Dixie Stampede, some of the guys had been there before, but the new guys had a lot left to learn. The tour of the Taneycomo was led by “Captain Corn”. It was a chilly afternoon, but the guys made a good time of it. Even head manager, Aaron Minglin, got in on the action by taking his hand at the wheel.

After some good laughs, the team loaded up and drove over to the beautiful campus of College of the Ozarks to watch opening round games. The other MCC teams fared well on day one with Saint Francis and Indiana Wesleyan both pulling out victories.

Prior to watching the hometown team, College of the Ozarks, all 32 teams took the floor for the Parade of Champions. This is a time when each team is introduced and walks out on the floor to form “NAIA” on the hardwood.

Shortly after the parade, the team headed to dinner at Denny’s for a team meal. The remainder of the night was free for the players to relax and mentally prepare for tomorrow’s matchup.

In the morning, the team will have shootaround at the RecPlex at 10 a.m., followed by a film session and lunch. Grace will take on Dakota Wesleyan tomorrow night at 5:45 p.m. CST. The game will be broadcast in Alpha Dining and can be heard over Stretch Internet as Andy Thompson and Jerry Gurrado bring the play-by-play.

Ladies and gentleman, tomorrow the Lancers begin their quest for a second national championship.

By Adam Basinger

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The World of Branson — 3/8/11 (11:59 a.m.)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSEQZ9_05-Y[/youtube]

Freshman forward Greg Miller and junior guard Jake Peattie discuss the world of Branson. Miller and Peattie love the atmosphere and are excited about the atmosphere that surrounds Branson and the NAIA National Tournament. They conclude the interview only as Lancers can.

Q. Greg, this being your first time in Branson, discuss the atmosphere that you are experiencing?

A. I love the atmosphere. It is a great place to be. The people are great, and our sponsor’s are awesome. I can only hope that we back here three more times, and I win it all at least once.

Q. This is your third trip in four years, what is it like?

A. I can only speak on Branson. It is the best atmosphere and people. We are going to ride the ducks tomorrow. It is a great place to be with the team.

Q, What is the atmosphere of the gym like?

A. It is unbelievable. Just knowing that you’re playing for a national title is awesome. They bring in some elementary school kids to cheer on the teams that don’t have that many fans in the earlier rounds. In the later rounds the crowd gets bigger and bigger. Hopefully we get to play in a few. This makes it more exciting.

Q. What are your guys’ expectations?

A. We are trying to get healthy. Our goal is to play to the best that we can. If we do that, we can’t complain.

By Justin Oren and Caleb Ridgeway

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Humphrey Addresses the Twitter Phenomenon — 3/8/11 (11:59 a.m.)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVYF_sSDY3o[/youtube]

Freshman point guard Michael Humphrey describes his time in Branson, Mo. He also elaborates on his Twitter account “IHeartHumphrey” that was created by teammate Ben Euler and has become an instant phenomenon on the trip. According to the account, it was designed “for all you freshmen ladies who want to know Michael Humphrey’s every move while in Branson, MO at the NAIA national tournament.”

Q. Are you enjoying Branson so far, and what is your favorite part?

A.  I am loving Branson, it has been a great experience. The best experience would definitely the Dixie Stampede, a really unique experience that others will helpfully get to see.

Q. Tell us about the Twitter account made about you and what your favorite tweet is/was?

A. I don’t have a favorite tweet, and I don’t even follow it that closely. All I know is that Ben Euler has been updating it quite frequently with some creative thoughts. I have no part in its creation or its continuation. Just throwing that out there.

Q. If you had one thing to say to the Twitter world, what would it be?

A. After the comments that Ben has been throwing out there, I really have nothing to say.

Q. What is your prediction on tomorrow’s game?

A. I predict a win.

By Caleb Ridgeway and Justin Oren

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Lancers Prepare for First Round — 3/9/11 (1:30 p.m.)

The team met for breakfast this morning before heading to the Branson RecPlex for one final tune-up before tomorrow’s game. The one hour walkthrough concluded at 11 a.m.

Before practice began, the guys warmed up taking some shots before stretching and officially opening practice with prayer.

The coaching staff put together a practice plan that was filled with drills and scout team activities. For one shooting drill, Coach Yeh upped the ante by offering the winning team milkshakes. Grimm and Henry had the lead after round one, followed closely by Merrell and Humphrey. After four rounds of different shots, the top group was Grimm and Henry with 186 points.

It was a physical practice with guys getting after each other. They worked through offensive plays and also worked on defensive strategy.

As for Grimm, he continues to improve each day. Having not seen many practices this year, I thought he looked good. He was running up and down the court working hard. He was hounding people on defense and getting his shot on offense.

The team has a film session scheduled for this afternoon before heading out to lunch with team sponsor Hawthorn Bank. Weather permitting, the guys will head across the street from the team hotel to “Ride the Ducks”. This attraction puts spectators in an amphibious vehicle and takes them around Lake Taneycomo to see the exquisite landscape and beautiful Ozark Mountains.

By Adam Basinger

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From the Big Dance to Branson, Bruce Grimm Jr. — 3/9/11 (2:01 a.m.)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cc2PB58B7tU[/youtube]

Sophomore point guard and Newcomer of the Year Bruce Grimm Jr. updates Lancer Nation on his leg injury, discusses his evening with the team in Branson and compares his preparation at the NAIA tournament to last year’s NCAA tournament when East Tennessee State University played the University of Kentucky in the first round of the Big Dance.

Q. How’s the recovery coming on your leg?

A. Great. The last couple days I’ve been able to practice, and it’s felt fine. I got hit once, but it feels good. So I guess it is going pretty well.

Q. How are you liking Branson so far?

A. It’s fun. Tonight, we went to the Dixie Stampede. We saw some horses… The North won, so it was a solid event. It’s going well.

Q. How does the NAIA tournament in Branson compare to the NCAA tournament last year?

A. It’s similar. A tournament is a tournament. Just trying to learn your opponent. That was Kentucky, so you can only learn so much about them. Just try to learn what they can do, and just have fun, pretty much.

By Justin Oren and Caleb Ridgeway

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First Time in Branson, Elliot Smith — 3/9/11 (2:01 a.m.)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTr-Q6X4GYs[/youtube]

Sophomore shooting guard Elliot Smith compares his NCCAA tournament experience last year in Oakland City, Ind., to this year’s tournament in Branson, discusses the team’s daily schedule and tries to give LAB followers a picture of what Branson is like.

Q. How do the two tournaments compare?

A. We want to be here this year. We didn’t really want to be in Oakland City. It’s just real nice here. We have all the teams everywhere, and there are a lot of people out really supporting us. Restaurants and everywhere we go, they are just excited that the NAIA national tournament is here. So it’s a lot different because this is our goal. And we got here. Our goal wasn’t really to go to Oakland City last year.

Q. What is your day-to-day routine?

A. Well, we had a two-hour practice on Monday, and we had an hour today in a middle school gym or something. We just wake up, go to practice, come back, shower up, go out to eat, hang out in the afternoon, and then go out to dinner. We are in a routine, and we will probably do the same thing tomorrow. It’s nice to have some free time in the afternoon, which we usually don’t get on trips. It’s nice to have some down time.

Q. For those who haven’t experienced Branson, Give us a picture of what Branson is.

A. It’s basically like a big tourist trip. There are a bunch of weird shows, anything you can think of. It’s like Vegas for old people. When we drove through, there was like a Titanic Memorial Museum…but it was for the dogs on the Titanic.

By Justin Oren and Caleb Ridgeway

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Hot-Tubbin’ and Dixie Stampedin’ — 3/8/11 (10:14 p.m.)

Upon arriving last night in Branson, the guys took advantage of the facilities at the hotel. Some sat back and relaxed while others took some time to hit the hot tub. Tannan Peters posted this on Facebook about his first night, “In Branson, at the hotel, the hot tub was nice.”

After a good practice this morning, the team had a free afternoon to relax. A number of guys worked on homework in the lobby while others went shopping at the Tanger Outlet Mall down the hill from the team hotel.

The main event left for the evening was to go to Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede for dinner. Seven players had been there before, but the remaining nine had yet to experience it. The dinner attraction, depicting events in American history, has been a big hit each time the Lancers have been in Branson. Many of the veterans reminisced about it, and the newcomers were in for a treat.

Once the guys came back from dinner, the Sports Information staff conducted interviews with players to get there take on Branson so far and will be posted shortly.

The Lancers have a busy day scheduled for tomorrow. Practice is scheduled for 10 a.m. with a team activity in the afternoon. They will also head to Keeter Gymnasium to watch some first round action.

Tomorrow marks the first day of competition for the 2011 NAIA National Tournament. The first round will last two days with the second round taking place on Friday. Grace is scheduled to play on Thursday night at 5:45 p.m. CST against Dakota Wesleyan.

By Adam Basinger

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Bracketology: How Far Will the Lancers Go? — 3/8/11 (11:59 p.m.)

With the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball Tournament starting on Wednesday morning, Michael Blevins and Zane Gard made some predictions and analyzed the tournament bracket. They predicted a winner, sleeper, one-and-done team, and an MVP of the tournament. And of course, they predicted how far Grace will go on their quest for a national title. Print out your NAIA bracket here.

This column by Zane Gard will be published in the March 11 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.

Winner- Oklahoma Wesleyan

Been there, done that.

Two years ago, the Oklahoma Wesleyan Eagles cut down the championship nets in Branson. Last year they made it to the Final Four. This year they are “only” a No. 7 seed. Oklahoma Wesleyan is led by an experienced coach in Donnie Bostwick and a potential Player of the Year candidate in Sadiel Rojas.

Two players outside of Rojas also average over 12 points per game, and Oklahoma Wesleyan outscores their opponent by an average of 12 points. Three of the Eagles’ four losses came against teams in the tournament. They are ready, they are experienced, and they are hungry.

Sleeper- IU-East

Yes, this is the same team that Grace beat by 29 points. And they very well may have squeaked into the tournament as the twelfth at-large bid. But…

They have a true scorer in Tyler Rigby. They create turnovers (first in the nation in steals). They shoot well (fourth in 3-pointers made). They pass (ninth in assists per game). That, I believe, along with a manageable schedule makes them dangerous.

One-and-Done: All Wesleyan schools not beginning with “Oklahoma”

I just don’t think you’re ready right now, Indiana Wesleyan. Yeah, you have the No. 9 seed, but your two leading scorers (Patrick Hopkins and Jordan Weidner) are a sophomore and a freshman. Five of your seven losses were away or at a neutral location, and Branson is no place to bring a team that does not travel well. You started well, but you finished the season 4-4. I’m sorry.

It’s just not going to work out, Iowa Wesleyan. See, I like stability, and you have three first-round exits in three tournament appearances. But now you have to play a red-hot IU-Southeast. Goodbye.

It’s not you; it’s me, Dakota Wesleyan. I’d like to give you credit for beating Briar Cliff University and Black Hills State University, but only half of your conference finished above .500. OK, it’s you.

MVP: Sadiel Rojas, Oklahoma Wesleyan

There are 15 good reasons for Rojas to be the tournament MVP. Unfortunately, 15 minutes is also the length of his YouTube highlight reel, so you will have to see for yourself.

Stats do not lie, however. Rojas ranks first in Division II total scoring and second in total rebounding. He has also tallied 22 double-doubles this year and is shooting 55 percent from the floor. And this is coming from a small forward. In addition to crazy athleticism, Rojas is the complete package. He is averaging over one 3-point shot made per game and has 42 steals and 13 blocks in 31 games.

More importantly, he makes his team better. He has filled the place of departed teammate and national Player of the Year Steve Briggs effortlessly and has stepped up as the captain.

Lancers’ Fate: Losing in Elite Eight

The Lancers have worn the Cinderella shoes many times. They have, after all, made the Elite Eight twice in the past three years.

Looming ahead in the second round is a potential matchup against No. 2 Northwood University. Mr. Disney himself could not have scripted a better Cinderella story than an underdog going against the coach who led a No. 8 seed to an NCAA national championship 26 years ago.

Yes, the Lancers may have an injured Grimm, but they are not without talent. The team can count on center Duke Johnson and rely on their defense. In fact, the Lancers have the top-ranked 3-point defense in Division II basketball.

Need I remind you that Saint Francis won the tournament last year as the No. 15 seed? Yes, another Elite Eight appearance is more than possible for the Lancers.

By Zane Gard

This column by Michael Blevins will be published in the March 11 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJGINHO19vk[/youtube]

Winner: Northwood University

Overall this team can score on anyone, and they play great defense. The one thing that will take this team over the top and win the tournament is head coach Rollie Massamino. Sound familiar? Massamino is the former head coach of Villanova—the one who led them to the 1985 national championship. He is the first head coach of Northwood and has compiled a stellar record of 104-29 in five seasons.

Massamino led No. 2 Northwood to 30 victories this season including two wins over No. 6 Embry Riddle. They are the top team in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage (41 percent) and rank second in assists and fourth in scoring margin.

Northwood wins the tournament beating Walsh in the Championship.

Sleeper: IU-Southeast

If you remember playing at Conseco Fieldhouse, then you will remember this team. IU-Southeast, who defeated Grace on Nov. 16, is my pick as the sleeper. Led by the nation’s third leading scorer in Jazzmarr Ferguson, they have scored over 90 points in their last seven games. Offensively, they are explosive, ranking No. 2 in the nation in scoring offense and No. 1 in the NAIA in 3-pointers per game.

The reason they are the sleeper is because they were at one point a top-10 team in the nation. They have dropped off a bit, but it is about how you are playing at the end of the year. They won the conference tournament, beating another hot team in IU-East.

The bottom line is this: You can’t stop Ferguson or stop this team at all from scoring. They can beat anyone in the country if they are hitting threes.

One-and-Done: Bellevue

Bellevue is a top-5 team in the country and one of the hottest teams in the country. Why would I pick them to lose in the first round? The reason is because of their unfortunate matchup against Ashford. They are both strong defensively, but Ashford is one of the best in the country at controlling the boards. They also hit a fair amount of threes, ranking in the top-40 in both categories.

They will keep it close through the whole game and, at the end, bury Bellevue from downtown. They control the clock, hit lots of threes and play good defense.

They’ll keep it close and pull off the upset. Happens all the time in college basketball.

MVP: Jonathan Dunn, Northwood

With the prediction of Northwood winning the championship, they must have a leader on the court. That leader is Jonathan Dunn, the team’s starting shooting guard and one of the nation’s leading scorers. He ranks No. 2 in the nation in total scoring (787 points) and fourth in points per game (23.9 ppg). He is also one of the top all-around shooters in the country, whether it is from the 3-point line or from the free throw line.

Dunn is the leader of the team and the catalyst behind Northwood’s 30 victories. In some of their biggest games of the year, Dunn has performed his best, including his 32 points against Saint Francis.

MVP: Dunn. Champion: Northwood.

Lancers’ Fate: Sweet Sixteen

The Lancers are looking for a third Elite Eight appearance in the last four years. Sadly it does not seem like that will happen. The first round is very winnable as the Lancers take on Dakota Wesleyan. Grace will win because of its size underneath. The problem is the second round game is against the Northwood, who spent the entire year as the No. 1 team in the country.

Grace struggles against good 3-point shooting teams (Marian and Indiana Wesleyan) and struggles to contend stars like Jazzmarr Ferguson of IU-Southeast. Plus, Grace’s rhythm has been thrown off because they’ve been playing without Bruce Grimm Jr.

The Lancers will play Northwood close, but I see Dunn taking down the Lancers.

By Michael Blevins

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Bruce Returns to the Practice Floor — 3/7/11 (3:00 p.m.)

This morning, the team headed to Maryville University to have practice before making their way to the Promised Land. Grace wasn’t the only qualifying team to have practice at MU. MCC rival Indiana Wesleyan had the time slot just after ours.

There is great news for Lancer Nation wondering if the First Team All-Conference and MCC Newcomer of the Year, Bruce Grimm Jr., is ready to make his return to the floor. Over the last few days, Grimm has been able to ride a stationary bike and get some shots up. Today marked the first full practice for Grimm after having surgery to remove a MRSA infection from his left leg. He was able to fully participate running up and down the floor and even dove on the floor for a loose ball.

When Bruce was sidelined nearly two weeks ago, the hearts of many Lancer fans sank. I know mine did. The team had worked so hard and finished the season so well, winning five of its final six games to end the regular season. But the recent developments will give the Lancers, who went 1-1 without Grimm in the conference tournament, a boost.

After practice, the Lancers packed up for the four-hour journey south to Branson. For dinner, the team stopped at local favorite Lambert’s Café, “The Only Home of Throwed Rolls.” If you want a roll just raise your hand and the server will literally toss a piping-hot, fresh roll.

Tomorrow the team will have practice and then have some time to enjoy the sights and experience Branson.

By Adam Basinger

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Lancers Depart for the Promised Land — 3/6/11 (1:30 p.m.)

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Winona Lake. Not only was the sun shining, but also the Lancers were about to embark on their journey to Branson, Missouri. After church services concluded, the team met at Alpha Dining Commons for team dinner with departure time set for 1 p.m.

Waiting in the parking lot were three vans, all with one destination in mind. Before leaving, all the members of the team were talking and laughing in the entryway of the OCC. Each Lancer had a goodie-bag in hand that was supplied by faithful fans wishing the team luck.

At 1 p.m. the much awaited time had come. It was time to load up and hit the road. The players headed to their respective vans, whose passengers were drawn out of a hat. A few lucky ones, Stephen Kaufman, Greg Miller, and Aaron Minglin were chosen to ride in the luxury van.

Before they could get settled in, Coach Kessler called them all back out to get a team photo and team prayer before they left. No matter what the stage, Assembly Hall in Bloomington or Conseco in Indianapolis, prayer and thanksgiving to God is number one.

After team pictures, it was time to leave. The team has reservations to practice at Maryville University tomorrow morning. This is the place that the previous two NAIA tournament qualifying teams conducted practice before punching its ticket to the Elite Eight.

After practice in the morning, Grace will head the rest of the way to Branson.

By Adam Basinger

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One Day Away from Departure — 3/5/11 (5:14 p.m.)

The Branson Bound Lancers are working hard. Just a few days after finally hearing that the NAIA National Tournament has become a reality, the men are in the gym for one final practice in the confines of the OCC. Tomorrow, the team will head to St. Louis for the first leg of its road trip en route to Point Lookout, Missouri and the NAIA Men’s Division II National Tournament.

They will depart campus after church services conclude on Sunday and stop in St. Louis. On Monday morning, the team will hold a practice at Maryville University before hitting the road again to drive the remaining 245 miles. The team will be traveling in style, taking three lavish vans that were donated by Explorer Van of Warsaw. This same type of van was taken the last two times the Lancers have ventured to Branson.

Starting at 11:30 a.m. today, Jerry Gurrado, the color commentator for Lancer basketball games on Stretch Internet, is hosting the “Dancin’ in Branson” preview broadcast live from Kessler Court in the Orthopaedic Capital Center. They will be talking all things Branson from our opponent, Dakota Wesleyan, to the latest on Bruce Grimm Jr.

Lancer Nation can follow along in a number of ways as the tournament unfolds. The Grace games will be broadcast via webcast in Alpha Dining and also broadcast over Stretch Internet. Stay tuned as the Sports Information Department will be covering the team and its happenings in Branson by supplying player and coach interviews, highlight reels, pictures, and a blog. The Lancers are Dancin’ in Branson!

By Adam Basinger

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Lancer Fans, We’re Spoiled — 3/4/11 (3:00 p.m.)

Call it the Marvelous Millennium. Call it the Golden Years. But whatever you call it, just know this one thing: we are living in the best years of Grace basketball. Ever.

Think I’m exaggerating? Think again.

Consider this: even when Grace won a national championship in 1991-92, they defended their title with a first-round exit in the following year’s NAIA tournament. What followed next for Grace basketball was perhaps the lowest years of the program – nine years of futility with only one winning season (1996-97).

But with Tuesday’s announcement of Grace as the No. 15 seed in Branson, the Lancers have now earned a berth in five straight national tournaments, three in the Promised Land of Branson.

In the past five years, Grace has amassed a record of 110-59 (.651 winning percentage). Only the win total from the mid-80s can top that in the record books. But the Lancers only had one trip to Branson during those years.

“These are certainly some of the best years. We have been very solid and competitive on a national scene,” said head coach Jim Kessler. “The competition level is also stronger now than it was in the past, and now we play the elite teams in the NAIA.”

The Lancers have much thanks from the past four years to go to David Henry and Stephen Kaufman, two seniors who have battled through more injuries and surgeries than the dude in the Operation board game.

Their goal is clear – “to finish a year with a win instead of getting beat and going home,” as Henry put it. Even if you had asked Kaufman, he would admit he didn’t expect this type of success during his career. “Coming out of high school, I wasn’t a part of championship teams. So to come to Grace and be a part of a successful program was a sweet experience for me,” he said.

The best part is that the future is incredibly promising with only two seniors on the roster and one starter in Henry. With (current juniors) Duke Johnson, Dayton Merrell, Jacob Peattie, (sophomores) Bruce Grimm Jr., Tannan Peters, Elliot Smith, (freshmen) Greg Miller and Dennis Williams all returning and all contributing in a major way the past season, the Lancers will display a talented and battle-tested squad fit for another deep run in the NAIAs.

So as incredible of a journey as the last several years have been, the magic might still be beginning. Coach K has navigated this team through Branson with a sterling 8-3 record in his career, and Lancer Nation should be in store for more wins.

But regardless, soak in every game, every player this week in Branson. Seasons and memories like this might not happen again for several more Grace generations.

Lancer Nation, we are spoiled.

By Josh Neuhart

This column was published in the March 5 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.
________________________________________________________________________________

Grimm’s Health Questionable, Essential for a Deep Run? — 3/4/11 (3:00 p.m.)

Bruce Grimm Jr. is a giant question mark.

Yes, he’ll play. But how many minutes will he last?

Yes, it helps that Grace’s first game isn’t until Thursday night—more time for recovery. But will he be able to play three games in three days if Grace goes to the Final Four?

Who knows? I’m not Bruce. I can’t feel the inch-thick chunk of flesh missing in my left thigh. I’m not his doctor. I didn’t dig it out.

“I’m not worried about being rusty,” Grimm said. “The first time we play up and down will probably be the first game I play, but I’m in pretty good shape, so I’m not worried about it.”

Gulp. Pen quivering.

All I know is this: Grace needs him. And without him, I don’t know if the Lancers are national-championship caliber. I think they can win a game or two, yes. The MCC season is great preparation for Branson. But I think his presence is crucial for a deep run.

Notice I said “presence.”

That’s because head coach Jim Kessler brought up a great point: The Lancers won an NAIA national championship in 1992 while their star transfer, Scott Blum (who also wore #44), missed the first-round game, had a broken foot and had a broken nose.

Parallels…

Blum only played a fraction of the national championship game, but he was still there. And things worked out pretty well, I’d say.

“The bus driver (Grimm) doesn’t have to push the bus,” Kessler said. “You just drive it.”

And who says driving the bus requires 35 minutes of PT, 20 points and eight assists?

A positive sign is that Kessler seems to think we may see 35 minutes of playing time from Grimm, anyway. Or at least he didn’t rule it out. “I wouldn’t assume that he won’t be full strength,” Kessler said. “I think he can go 35. We’ll see.”

It’s just difficult to gage the essentiality of Grimm because we’ve only seen two games without him. If this was Duke Johnson injured, I’d give it to you flat out: We’d be done for.

We dropped four in a row earlier in the season when he was getting limited playing time recovering from his ankle injury. And Grace has two victories and six losses when Johnson has scored less than 10 points.

But we’ve only seen two games without Grimm. In the first game, Grace yielded 73 points to Taylor, missing his lock-down defense. Still, however, a win.

In the second game, the Lancers nearly beat Saint Francis in the semifinals while shooting 1 for 16 from downtown, taking nine less free throws and playing without their star point guard. Still, however, a loss and a loss against a Branson-esque team.

Whatever the case, ever since Grimm took over at the end of the season, I feel uneasy without him in the lineup.

So again, who knows? Grimm’s status is a question mark. And so are the Lancers without him.

“I’m assuming that we won’t have him,” Henry said. “But even if he does play, he won’t be able to go 35 minutes. With or without him, we’ll be fine.”

I’m not sold on it. But please, prove me wrong.

Just like 1992.

By Stephen Copeland

This column was published in the March 5 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.
________________________________________________________________________________

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9gKtdSPZqo[/youtube]

Former Lancer Creates Video about Branson — 3/3/11 (9:30 p.m.)

Josh Arnold, a current junior who played for Grace last season and is a manager this year, created “Grace Men’s Basketball (Part 3)” about the Lancers’ upcoming trip to Branson.

His video series has become a Grace Internet sensation…or at least, it’s become popular on campus.

The series highlights two Grace students, one who is an avid Lancer fan and another who hates the Grace men’s basketball team. Student A continually tries to convince Student B to become part of Lancer Nation, but he stubbornly refuses time after time.

Arnold made the first video as a promo for Grace’s game against the University of Saint Francis on Feb. 15, a 57-56 victory that punched Grace’s ticket to Branson and clinched second place in the MCC regular season conference standings.

The second video was a promo for Grace’s last regular season game against Indiana Wesleyan University when the Lancers had a chance to earn their first regular season conference title since 1993.

In the third video, Student A begins discussing a road trip to Branson to cheer on the team. A major breakthrough occurs…enjoy.

Click here to see the first video.

Click here to see the second video.
________________________________________________________________________________

Lancers Earn Bid to NAIA Tournament — 3/2/11 (10:00 a.m.)

WINONA LAKE, Ind. – For the third time in four years, Grace’s men’s basketball team will be playing for an NAIA championship in Branson, Mo.

The Lancers made the 32-team tournament as the No. 15 seed and as the sixth at-large bid. It will be their fifth NAIA Division II national appearance. The Lancers’ national tournament record stands at 8-3 all-time, including a national championship in 1992. In their last appearance in 2009, the Lancers made it to the quarterfinal round.

During the 2010-11 regular season, the Lancers finished with a 22-10 record, good for second in the MCC. In the MCC tournament, they defeated Taylor University before falling to Saint Francis University in the semifinal round.

Grace will play Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.) in the first round at 5:45 CST on Thursday, March 10. Dakota Wesleyan has a 23-8 record and received the seventh at-large bid. This will be the Tigers’ fifth consecutive national tournament appearance, but they have gone 1-5 over that span.

The Lancers survived a tough schedule this season, with five of the Lancers’ losses coming against teams in the national championship tournament. Senior David Henry says this has prepared them well for a tournament run. “Being there before, I see that our conference is as good as any other. We can compete against the top teams if we take one game at a time.”

Should the Lancers win, they will most likely face No. 2 Northwood University (Fla.) who takes on Fisher College (Mass.). But head coach Jim Kessler says his team is ready for the challenge. “I’m proud of what our men have done this year. We know what we have to do to win, and we will make the best team effort we can.”

By Sports Information

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7 Responses to “The LAB — Live from Branson”

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    [...] matchup with the Wesleyan institution of the Dakotas, and you’re invited to follow along here! There is also a watch party in Alpha Hall’s dining commons tonight at 6:45 pm, so if [...]

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    Nice! I really like the videos. – Former Lancer Creates Video about Branson

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