Irwin’s Game Winner Sends Grace to Title Game

Thursday’s national semifinal game between Grace’s men’s basketball team and Roberts Wesleyan had all the ingredients of a game for the ages.

An electric atmosphere. A late rally. Clutch free throws. And, of course, a last-second game winner.

Sophomore Logan Irwin stepped into a 3-pointer off the dribble on the right side of the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center court, and his triple with 1.6 seconds remaining lifted the Lancers to a 65-62 victory over Roberts Wesleyan. Grace will now play for the NCCAA Div. I national championship on Saturday 5 p.m. against Point Loma Nazarene, who defeated top-seeded Southern Nazarene in the other semifinal.

The Lancers (20-14) only trailed for 23 seconds on Thursday and seemed to have the game under wraps in the second half. An and-1 from Greg Miller put the Lancers ahead 51-36 with 12:27 left in the game.

But Grace’s offense struggled mightily down the stretch as the Redhawks used a 13-2 run to erase the Lancers’ cushion with four minutes to play.

The teams traded points over the final minutes until a three-point play from the Redhawks’ Tyrel Dixon gave Roberts Wesleyan its first lead of the game at 61-60 with 1:31 remaining. Caleb Featherston made two free throws on Grace’s next possession to put the home team ahead by one, and the Redhawks (13-15) responded with one free throw to tie the game.

On Grace’s game-winning possession, Irwin caught the inbounds pass and dribbled to his right. After being unable to find an entry pass into the post, Irwin rose up and swished in the winning 3-pointer on the wing to send the home fans into bedlam.

The Redhawks could only muster a halfcourt heave that was well off the mark, securing Grace’s spot in the NCCAA championship game on Saturday. The Lancers will be playing in their fifth NCCAA title game in program history.

As a historical sidenote, head coach Jim Kessler picked up win No. 699 in his legendary coaching career with the Lancers. He will be playing for the historic No. 700 win in the NCCAA title bout.

Irwin led all players with 18 points, including 3-of-3 shooting from beyond the arc, to go along with five assists. Greg Miller added a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Jared Treadway totaled 14 points and nine boards.

Brandon Vanderhegghen pulled down a game-best 12 rebounds, and Niko Read had 12 points off the bench.

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