In a pivotal late-season matchup in the Crossroads League, No. 13 St. Francis used a clutch spurt over the final minutes to win 73-63 over No. 20 Grace on Saturday.
The Cougars (20-6, 10-4 CL) outscored the Lancers 13-3 over the final four minutes, breaking open a 60-60 tie en route to victory. USF remain in a tie for second place in the CL standings while the Lancers (19-7, 9-5 CL) slipped to fourth.
At the onset, Grace’s offense sputtered with two missed field goals and two turnovers after tipoff. USF scored the first eight points of the contest, and they continued their assault with a 21-10 lead with eight minutes left in the half.
The Lancers trimmed the Cougars’ cushion to three points, but USF responded with a 6-0 spurt to lead by nine. Niko Read ended the scoring for the first half with a 3-pointer, bringing Grace to within 38-32 at the half.
USF upped its lead to nine early in the second half before Grace rallied. A rebound putback from Dennis Williams knotted the game at 45-45, and Grace eventually took a two-point lead with 7:45 to play.
The game remained tightly contested, and a 3-pointer from Chad Hoffer tied the score for the fourth time at 60-60 with 4:11 on the clock. But Grace’s offense was about to hit a fatal cold streak.
The only points Grace could muster over the critical final four minutes came on a 3-pointer from Logan Irwin with 52 seconds left in the game. Meanwhile, USF made three straight field goals and made 6-of-6 from the foul line to pull away for the 10-point win.
Read and Williams tied for team honors with 15 points. Read hit five 3-pointers, and Williams grabbed a game-high nine boards.
Irwin finished with 11 points, 5 assists, 4 boards and 2 steals, Brandon Vanderhegghen added eight points before fouling out, and Hoffer chipped in six points and three assists off the bench.
Grace as a team shot 39 percent from the floor, including 43 percent in the second half. USF hit 50 percent of its field goals and grabbed four more rebounds as a team (36-32). The Cougars also attempted 17 more free throws and were whistled for eight fewer fouls.
The Lancers will hope to stay in contention for the league crown on Tuesday when Grace hosts Marian at 7 p.m.