Lady Lancers Down Warriors 74-62 at NCCAA Nationals

March 20th, 2015

Pictured is junior Gabby Bryant bringing the ball up the court for Grace in the second half on Thursday.

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).

Lancers’ Offense Cruises by Simpson

March 19th, 2015

Pictured: Freshman forward Erik Bowen posting up against Simpson on Thursday

Grace’s men’s basketball team rebounded from a disappointing loss in the opening round of NCCAA Nationals, taking down Simpson 83-77 on Thursday.

After falling into the consolation bracket with a loss to Dallas Baptist on Wednesday night, Grace bounced back with an offensive eruption against Simpson. The Lancers (23-12) hit 52 percent of their field goals, including 59 percent in the second half.

Brandon Vanderhegghen led Grace in scoring with 21 points, hitting 7-of-13 from the floor to go along with six assists and three rebounds. Adrian Makolli had a career day with 18 points and 12 rebounds. He made 8-of-10 of his shots and also swatted four shots.

The Lancers will conclude the season on Friday at 5 p.m. in the fifth-place game of NCCAA Nationals against Cincinnati Christian University.

Grace seemed in control to start the game, easing ahead 17-10. The Lancers buried a trio of 3-pointers in the first five minutes to key its offense.

But the Red Hawks (18-17) recovered and led by four with less than two minutes to go in the half. Grace made a late push to regain the lead at 37-35 entering halftime. Makolli scored 10 points in the first half, including the last-second tip-in before the halftime buzzer.

Simpson continued to hold a slight lead over Grace with a 46-41 advantage with 15:41 remaining, but Grace went on a game-changing run and never looked back.

The Lancers rattled off an incredible 18-0 charge over the next four minutes, flipping a five-point deficit into a 13-point lead. Grace never trailed for the rest of the game and held off a late rally from Simpson for the six-point win.

Logan Irwin added 14 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds, and Chad Hoffer scored nine points off the bench.

Lady Lancers Unable to Slow Bethesda at NCCAA Nationals

March 19th, 2015

The NCCAA National Championships for Grace kicked off with a wild quarterfinal matchup with third-seeded Bethesda on Wednesday.

The Flames’ blistering pace unraveled the Lady Lancers as Grace lost 87-82 at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center.

Grace struggled to adjust to Bethesda’s frenetic pace in the first half. The Flames’ run-and-gun style of play produced an incredible 32 shots from the 3-point line. Grace’s defense held Bethesda to just 16 percent shooting on 3’s (5-of-32).

Bethesda’s fullcourt trapping defense was equally disruptive. Grace committed 16 turnovers before halftime to hamper its cause.

Offensively, Grace was adept at getting to the foul line. The Lady Lancers (17-16) took 18 free throws in the first half and made 16 (89 percent). Allison Kauffman had nearly half of Grace’s points with 16 in the first 20 minutes.

The Flames (12-17) pulled out to a 10-point margin after four minutes of play in the second half at 50-40, but the Lady Lancers clawed back into contention. Grace ripped off 14 points in a four-minute span to chop Bethesda’s lead down to two.

But Grace was unable to wrestle away the lead from Bethesda as the Flames’ 3-point shots began to fall. Bethesda re-established a double-digit lead with 6:16 to play. Bethesda led by as many as 15 points with just over two minutes remaining before Grace went on a valiant comeback attempt. The Lady Lancers outscored the Flames 14-4 over the last two minutes, but it was not enough to send Grace into the national semifinals.

Grace shot 14 3-pointers in the game and made none. The Lady Lancers connected on 37 percent of their field goals compared to 32 percent for the Flames. Bethesda forced Grace into 22 turnovers, scoring 20 points off those miscues.

Kauffman notched 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Sarah Feasby added another double-double with 14 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Gabby Bryant had nine points and five rebounds, and JoEllen Fickel, Micah Pollard and Heather House each tallied eight points.

The chaotic contest saw a combined 36 turnovers, 64 3-point shots and 34 offensive rebounds. Bethesda fired up 50 treys and had 90 field goal attempts on their own.

The Lady Lancers fall into the consolation bracket of the tournament, starting with a game against Southern Wesleyan on Thursday at 1:45 p.m. The Grace/SWU contest will be a rematch of last season’s seventh-place game which the Warriors won in the final seconds. Grace will conclude its season on Friday in either the fifth or seventh-place game.

Lancers Tripped Up by Dallas Baptist at NCCAA Nationals

March 19th, 2015

Grace’s championship aspirations for 2015 were dashed on Wednesday when Dallas Baptist upset the Lancers 63-55.

The Lancers (22-12) shot a paltry 28 percent from the floor and let a late lead slip against the sixth-seeded Patriots (16-15) at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center.

Dallas Baptist ended the game on an 11-0 run over the final three minutes as Grace went cold from the floor. A Logan Irwin basket put Grace on top 55-52 with 3:00 to play. But Grace missed its final six field goals as well as its last two free throws over the last three minutes, enabling the Patriots to earn a spot into the national semifinals.

Grace’s defense dominated the early stages of Wednesday’s game. The Patriots were held to just two points over the first eight minutes of the game as Grace led 11-2.

Despite shooting just 33 percent from the floor in the opening half, Grace still claimed a 28-20 lead at halftime.

Midway into the second half, the Patriots made a push to take their first lead of the game. DBU used a 10-1 run to turn an eight-point deficit into a one-point lead, going ahead 46-45 with 9:47 on the clock.

The lead changed hands within one possession for the ensuing nine minutes until the Patriots’ game-changing run over the last three minutes.

Grace struggled mightily with its shooting touch in the second half at 22 percent, making 6-of-27 from the floor after halftime. The Lancers and Patriots each had 15 turnovers in the game.

Brandon Vanderhegghen led Grace in scoring with 12 points to go along seven boards and two steals. Caleb Featherston just missed a double-double with 11 points and eight rebounds, and Irwin tallied 10 points and two steals.

The Lancers will play in the consolation bracket on Thursday at 10:15 a.m. against Simpson University.

Area Students Inspired by Mountaineer Eric Alexander at Grace College’s Transition Exploration Day

March 17th, 2015

Pictured: Speaker, author, skier, climber, and mountaineer Eric Alexander

This year’s Transition Exploration Day, hosted by the Grace College Student Chapter of the Council for Exceptional Children, gave 150 high school students the opportunity to hear from skier, climber, and mountaineer Eric Alexander this past Friday at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center. Six school corporations, 20 businesses and agencies, and 35 Grace College CEC members also had the privilege to attend.

Alexander shared his story about leading people with disabilities to the top of the highest point on six of seven continents, including his blind friend Erik Weihenmayer to the summit of Everest. Following the keynote address, students had the opportunity to visit a transition exhibition where area agencies, educational institutions, and businesses displayed booths of opportunities and resources available as the students plan for post-graduation.

Alexander is author of The Summit: Faith Beyond Everest’s Death Zone, as well appearing in the award- winning documentary, “Farther Than the Eye Can See.” He has appeared on ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and the Discovery Channel, as well as TIME, Outside, Climbing, and many more. For more details, go to

“Eric Alexander’s story of perseverance, faith, trust, and courage was an inspiration to both Grace College campus and the high school students who joined us for the day,” said Cheryl Bremer, chair of the special education department at Grace College. “We were so excited to see the mission of the Grace Council for Exceptional Children played out today as we were able to share God’s love in a unique way.”


2015 NCCAA DI Basketball Championships Men’s & Women’s National Tournament – March 18 – 21

March 16th, 2015

The NCCAA D1 tournament games begin on Wednesday, March 18th with 8 games on the schedule for the 1st day of the tournament.  The tournaments conclude on Saturday, March 21st with the men’s championship game scheduled for 2 pm and the women’s championship at 5 pm.

The Grace College women’s basketball team earned the #6 seed and will play #3 seed Bethesda University (CA) at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, March 18th.  The men’s team earned the #3 seed and will play the #6 seed Dallas Baptist University at 5:15 pm on Wednesday, March 18th as well.  The Parade of Champions ceremony where all 16 participating teams are introduced will be held at 7:00 pm between the two Grace games.
Former NCAA men’s basketball coach Dave Bliss will be the banquet speaker for the National Championships next Tuesday night.  Bliss, who coached at Oklahoma, New Mexico, SMU and Baylor, will release his autobiography entitled “Fall to Grace: The Climb, Collapse, and Comeback of Coach Dave Bliss” at the NCCAA Banquet on March 17. Tickets are available to hear Bliss speak and to obtain an autographed copy of his book. Please contact the Grace College Athletic office at (574) 372-5100 ext: 6266 to reserve tickets for the banquet.
Please feel free to keep up with all the Championship tournament information at the tournament website:

Grace Crowned NCCAA Midwest Regional Champs

March 16th, 2015

The Lady Lancers’ basketball team will enter next week’s NCCAA National Championships on a high note after claiming the Midwest Regional championship on Friday.

Grace buried eight 3-pointers and used a key second-half run to handle Cincinnati Christian 77-73 at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center.

The Lady Lancers (17-15) will find out their next opponent late Saturday evening when the official bracket and tournament field is announced for the 2015 NCCAA Nationals, held at Grace College from March 18-21.

Grace got off to a sluggish start on Friday, trailing 8-0 within three minutes of the tipoff. CCU jumped out to a 14-4 lead before Grace found its stride.

The Lady Lancers rattled off a 17-3 run over the next five minutes to go on top by four. Allison Kauffman and Gabby Bryant scored six points apiece during Grace’s spurt. Bryant was a major offensive piece for Grace in the half, leading all players with 13 points and a trio of 3-pointers.

Grace still led by four with five minutes to go in the first half, but the Eagles (15-16) rallied to grab a 38-36 lead at the midway break. The Eagles took advantage of Grace’s zone in the opening half, scoring 18 points in the paint. Grace had 11 assists on 15 made field goals before halftime.

CCU started as the better team in the second half as well, pulling ahead by eight at 50-42 with 15:35 remaining. Grace responded with eight unanswered points to pull even at 50-50 on a shot from Micah Pollard.

Grace eventually found the separation it needed thanks to the hot shooting of Kauffman and Kelsey Sule. Kauffman went on a 6-0 run of her own to put Grace up by three. Sule then caught fire, draining back-to-back 3-pointers followed by a runner in the lane as the Lady Lancers claimed a 72-59 advantage with 3:29 remaining. Grace’s game-changing run was an 18-2 charge over a span of 6:46. Kelsie Peterson had four assists to propel Grace in that run.

The Eagles employed a fullcourt press out of desperation in the final minutes and nearly pulled off a comeback. CCU nabbed three steals and managed to cut Grace’s cushion down to three points with less than a minute to play.

Kauffman hit 1-of-2 from the foul line with 28 seconds to play to extend Grace’s lead to four, but the Eagles quickly scored to make the score 75-73 with 15 seconds left. Peterson then iced the regional crown seven seconds later by calmly sinking both free throws for the final four-point margin of victory.

Kauffman tied for scoring honors on the night with 23 points on 11-of-21 shooting while also pulling down eight boards. Bryant finished with 15 points, 9 rebounds and 2 assists, and Sule tallied 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc.

Peterson amassed 7 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals, Heather House added six points off the bench, and JoEllen Fickel pulled down seven boards.

As a team Grace had 20 assists to tie a season-high. Grace also outrebounded CCU by six thanks to 13 offensive rebounds. The Lady Lancers’ bench poured in 25 points.

Lancers Fade Late to Southern Oregon

March 16th, 2015

Photo by Brian Beery. Pictured is Logan Irwin defending the ball in the first half.

Grace’s men’s basketball team could not replicate its late-game magic again on Friday, falling to Southern Oregon 68-62 in the NAIA Second Round.

The Lancers (22-11) led for nearly the entire first 30 minutes of action, but the Raiders (26-9) surged ahead late to advance to the national quarterfinals.

The loss shifts Grace’s focus to next week’s 2015 NCCAA National Championships. Grace will enter the tournament as the host school and will look to improve on last year’s second-place finish. NCCAA Nationals are held March 18-21 at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center. (NCCAA TOURNAMENT CENTRAL)

A day after pulling the upset of No. 7 Bellevue thanks to a tenacious defense, the Lancers’ defense picked up where it left off on Friday. Grace forced Southern Oregon into turnovers on the first two possessions. The Lancers came out firing, making its first three shots and taking a 9-2 lead.

Chad Hoffer provided a major offensive spark off the bench in the first half, ripping off 11 points as Grace went ahead 24-14. The Raiders responded with nine straight points to trim Grace’s cushion to one.

Southern Oregon eventually tied the score at 29-29 with less than seven minutes to play in the half, but the Lancers pulled ahead 39-35 at halftime. Both teams shot well from the field with the Raiders at 54 percent and Grace at 52 percent. Grace made one more 3-pointer and had one less turnover than Southern Oregon over the first 20 minutes.

The second half was back-and-forth with Grace refusing to surrender the lead. The Raiders finally claimed their first lead of the game at 50-49 with 11 minutes remaining. Southern Oregon grabbed its largest lead at 59-53 with six minutes to play, but the Lancers clawed back within striking distance.

Caleb Featherston sank a clutch jumper with the shot clock expiring, pulling Grace to within 62-61 with 2:00 on the clock. After a defensive stop, Grace missed a jumper, but Dennis Williams grabbed the offensive board and was fouled with 50.1 seconds to play. Williams hit 1-of-2 to tie the game.

The Raiders were fouled on their end of the floor and hit both shots to take a two-point lead. Logan Irwin went to the foul line and missed the front-end of a bonus free throw. Grace fouled and was then whistled for a technical foul, allowing the Raiders to claim a five-point edge from the free throw line with 19.2 seconds remaining. The Lancers turned the ball over on their next possession, leading to the inevitable defeat.

For the second half, Grace was outscored 33-23. The Lancers hit just 33 percent from the floor, 13 percent from the 3-point line (1-of-8) and 55 percent from the foul line.

Featherston led Grace in scoring with 13 points, and Irwin added 12 points and five boards. Hoffer tallied 12 points in 16 minutes off the bench, and Vanderhegghen notched 11 points, 4 boards and a game-high 4 steals.

Grace will find out its opponent for next week’s NCCAA Nationals when the official bracket and tournament field is announced late Saturday night.

Late Heroics Seal Grace’s Upset Victory Over No. 7 Bellevue

March 12th, 2015

(Photos by Brian Beery) Logan Irwin bringing the ball up the court against Bellevue

Kyle Fillman (right) and Caleb Featherston celebrating in the final seconds during Grace's win

A stout defensive performance and late free throws propelled Grace’s men’s basketball team to a 54-50 upset of No. 7 Bellevue on Thursday in the opening round of the 2015 NAIA Div. II National Championships.

The Lancers (22-10) held Bellevue to 30 points below its season scoring average of 80.0 ppg. Grace’s lockdown defense was especially apparent in the second half as the Bruins (28-6) scored just 17 points, including three points over the final 6:16 of regulation.

The back-and-forth game featured nine ties and 10 lead changes, and neither team led by more than six points.

Grace opened the game with a 3-pointer from Brandon Vanderhegghen, and Logan Irwin repeated the performance a minute later. Irwin was to play a vital role offensively for Grace in the opening half, leading all players with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting.

Bellevue closed out the first half on a 7-2 run to claim a 33-30 advantage at halftime. Both teams shot better than 43 percent from the floor, but they combined to make 3-of-19 from beyond the arc.

The Bruins started as the stronger squad to open the second half and had the largest lead of the game at 40-34 with 12:43 remaining. But Vanderhegghen singlehandedly pulled Grace back, rattling off seven points in two minutes to cut the Bruins’ lead to one possession.

From that point forward, the Lancers’ defense took care of the rest. Bellevue hit a free throw to make the score 47-45 with 6:17 on the clock. Grace’s defense then stifled the Bruins into scoring just three points over the final six minutes of play, setting the stage for a dramatic comeback.

Grace still trailed by three with under three minutes to play when Vanderhegghen was fouled and made both attempts. After a turnover from the Bruins, Irwin was fouled and hit both shots to give Grace a 51-50 lead with 1:29 left to play.

The Lancers made another defensive stop and let the clock run down on the ensuing offensive possession. Irwin missed a shot, but Niko Read came up with a big offensive board with 34.1 seconds remaining. After a timeout, Grace turned the ball over, but Bellevue spoiled a chance to go ahead with a turnover of its own.

Kyle Fillman was fouled with 11 seconds left and made 1-of-2. Caleb Featherston came up with a game-clinching play to soar for the offensive rebound on Fillman’s miss. Irwin was fouled and hit 2-of-2 from the line with less than five seconds to play, securing Grace’s upset.

Irwin had a game-high 21 points to go along with three assists and three boards. Vanderhegghen had 18 points and also led all players with nine rebounds. Featherston tallied 6 points, 6 boards and 4 steals, Erik Bowen scored four points off the bench, and Dennis Williams added 2 points, 7 boards and 2 blocks.

Although Grace shot 38 percent from the floor, the Lancers held the Bruins to an even lower 33 percent. Bellevue made just 5-of-26 (19 percent) after halftime.

The Lancers will play either No. 10 Midland or Southern Oregon in the NAIA Second Round on Friday at 2:45 p.m. (ET).


March 11th, 2015

Grace’s men’s basketball team is set to embark on the 2015 NAIA Div. II National Basketball Championships this week.

The Lancers open the tournament on Thursday at 11:15 a.m. (ET) against the No. 7-seeded Bellevue (Neb.).

CoverageVIDEO (subscription required)  |  AUDIO (free)  |  STATS

Follow the action on twitter using the hashtags #NAIADIIMBB and #WeAreGC. Behind-the-scenes coverage available on twitter (@GCLancers) and Instagram (@GCLancers).

Scouting Grace: The Lancers (21-10) are to making their sixth trip to NAIA Nationals in the past eight years under head coach Jim Kessler. Grace’s last trip in 2013 resulted in a run to the national semifinals. Grace received an at-large berth to the tournament despite losing its last three games of the season.

The Lancers have relied on balanced scoring and a tenacious defense this year. Among NAIA Div. II teams, Grace ranks No. 6 in guarding the 3-point line (31.2 percent) and No. 9 in scoring defense (64.2 points per game).

Offensively, Grace has four players averaging double figures in points, including Logan Irwin (13.5 ppg), Niko Read (11.9), Brandon Vanderhegghen (10.5) and Dennis Williams (10.2). Irwin, Read and Vanderhegghen have drilled over 40 treys apiece this season, and Williams is making 60 percent of his shots from the floor.

Irwin, the team’s floor general and point guard, has one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the nation with 140 assists to just 50 turnovers.

Click here to hear a radio preview show with interviews from Grace coaches and players.

Scouting Bellevue: The Bruins (28-5) are the No. 7 seed in the tournament after winning the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Tournament. Bellevue is one of the most experienced national tournament teams in Branson as the Bruins are making their 16th trip, second only to the host College of the Ozarks.

Bellevue has made 12 consecutive trips to Branson and has lost in the First Round only once in that stretch (2006).

The Bruins feature a balanced offense of their own with the two-headed attack of Percy Lemle and Taylor Young both averaging 16.3 points per game. Alex Worthen-Harris (11.0 ppg) and Thomas Hammock (9.1) add scoring depth to the high-scoring Bruins, who average 80 ppg. Bellevue has reached 90 points in a game nine times, including a 102-point outburst against William Penn on Dec. 13.

Offensively, Bellevue relies heavily on the 3-point shot. The Bruins average over eight made 3’s per game and make 37 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc. Bellevue shoots 46 percent from the floor and 70 percent from the free throw line.

What’s next: With a win, Grace would take on the winner of No. 10 Midland and Southern Oregon on Friday at 2:45 p.m. in the Second Round. A win on Friday would put Grace in the national quarterfinals on Saturday at 4 p.m.

With a loss, Grace would return to Winona Lake, Ind., to play in the NCCAA National Basketball Championships held at Grace from March 18-21.