Grace’s women’s basketball team secured their third winning season in four years with a convincing 74-62 win over Southern Wesleyan on Thursday.
The Lady Lancers (18-16) will wrap up the season on Friday at 7 p.m. in the fifth-place game of the NCCAA National Championships against Southwestern Assemblies of God. Grace’s total of 18 wins is also the third-most in program history.
In the first half, the lead changed hands multiple times over the first 12 minutes of play with neither team firmly establishing itself in front.
Kelsey Sule gave Grace a major spark off the bench, however, rattling off 13 points in 10 minutes to give Grace a 37-33 lead at halftime. Sule buried four 3-pointers, including one in the final minute, to help bust open SWU’s defense.
Grace scored the first seven points of the second half to propel the Lady Lancers to a 44-33 lead, but the Warriors did not fade. SWU responded with four quick points and kept Grace within striking distance.
With Grace leading 57-52 with seven minutes remaining, the Lady Lancers made a defensive stand to take control of the contest. Grace held SWU without a point for nearly four minutes of action, going on an 8-0 run in the process to pull ahead by 13. Heather House scored six points in a row for the Lady Lancers during the run, and SWU could not come closer than nine points of Grace for the rest of the game.
JoEllen Fickel finished with a career-high 16 points in 18 minutes, hitting 8-of-10 from the floor. Sule finished with 13 points, and Allison Kauffman scored 13 points with nine rebounds.
Gabby Bryant tallied 7 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, Heather House scored 10, and Micah Pollard registered seven points and three assists.
After the teams shot an identical 13-of-32 from floor in the first half, Grace separated itself shooting-wise after halftime. The Lady Lancers made 46 percent of their field goals in the second half compared to 28 percent for the Warriors.
Grace struggled in ball control with 20 turnovers – compared to nine for SWU – but the Lady Lancers held a dominant 44-24 advantage in rebounding.
With a win in the fifth-place game on Friday, Grace would have its second-highest finish in the national tournament (third place, 2012).