Lancers Charge Into Final Four

Grace’s men’s basketball team continued its memorable run through the NAIA Division II National Championships with a 72-59 win over Dakota State on Saturday.

The victory lands the Lancers (24-9) in the national semifinals on Monday 7 p.m. EST against No. 1 William Penn (Iowa).

All five starters for Grace recorded double-digit scoring, paced by 18 points apiece from Tannan Peters and Karl Columbus.

Grace made 50 percent of their field goals, including an impressive 16-of-18 performance from the free throw line. Grace’s defense also held Dakota State in check at 36 percent shooting for the game.

“I was really proud of how we made adjustments in the second half. As the game ended in the first half, we got a little lax and committed some turnovers,” said Grace head coach Jim Kessler. “We adjusted well to Dakota in the second half, spread the court and attacked off the dribble. We are just thrilled to be here and excited to advance.”

Grace held onto a lead for much of the opening half thanks to excellent shooting. The Lancers made 54 percent of their field goals before halftime.

Ballhandling was an issue for Grace in the beginning stages of the half, however, as they committed six turnovers in a four-minute span. But for the final 34 minutes of regulation, Grace turned the ball over just four more times.

Dakota State kept themselves in the game by drilling 6-of-12 from the 3-point line in the first half. The Trojans (24-10) ended the half on a 12-4 spurt to cut Grace’s advantage to 35-34 at the half.

With 18:33 to play, the Trojans led 38-37 before Grace seized control of the game with a crucial 15-2 run. Grace led 52-40 after their charge and never trailed again.

The Trojans did not go down easily, however, as they clawed their way back to within four points of the Lancers’ cushion with seven minutes remaining.

But Grace’s defense secured the team’s place in the semifinals by yielding just four points over the final seven minutes.

“Several people really stepped up and had nice jobs for us. Tannan [Peters] particularly showed some real determination and shot the ball well today. Elliot [Smith] and Bruce [Grimm] gave us the shooting we needed today, and Karl [Columbus] came through with his jump shot.”

Columbus made 8-of-11 from the floor to go along with five rebounds and three assists, and Peters swished 4-of-5 from the 3-point line for his 18 points.

Elliot Smith made a pair of 3-pointers for 12 points, Bruce Grimm Jr. tallied 12 points and four assists, and Greg Miller produced 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Grace’s semifinal matchup on Monday (7 p.m. EST) will be the team’s first since the 1991-92 season.

Follow the team live in Branson with video coverage (paid subscription) from the NAIA and live audio coverage (no charge) with Grace’s Stretch Internet.

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