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Grace Rallies for Epic Championship Victory

Grace’s men’s basketball team overcame a 16-point deficit to repeat as Crossroads League Tournament champions.

Grace’s men’s basketball team overcame a 16-point deficit to repeat as Crossroads League Tournament champions.

The No. 4 Lancers (28-3) used a dynamic second-half performance to rally over No. 15 Huntington (24-7), winning the 2023 CL Tourney title by the score of 80-74.

Grace, now armed with the 2023 league regular season and tournament championships, will await its NAIA tournament opponent.

The Lancers are hosting NAIA First and Second Round games on March 7-8. The full 64-team bracket and matchups will be revealed on Thursday night.

The Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center crowd was energetic and enthusiastic throughout the championship tilt. Fans packed the MOCC stands and stood along the upper bowl as finding an empty seat proved to be a near-impossible challenge.

Grace could not have begun the game any better on Tuesday. The Lancers, in front of one of the largest crowds in facility history, opened the game with confidence.

Grace hit a trio of 3-pointers to keep the capacity crowd in a frenzied state.

The Lancers charged into the first media timeout with a 15-6 lead, but Grace’s lead proved to be short lived.

Huntington countered by attacking in the post, scoring quickly to erase the Lancers’ cushion.

Back-to-back 3s continued the Foresters’ surge, and Huntington propelled in front 24-17 midway into the half. HU rattled off 16 unanswered points during its charge.

Grace’s offense was flat in response, struggling to make a dent in HU’s lead. The Foresters opened up a 16-point lead with two minutes to play in the half, and Huntington marched into halftime with a 43-29 advantage.

For the half, Huntington shot a blistering 53 percent from the floor while Grace struggled at 37 percent.

The Lancers, after making their three early triples, missed their final five from beyond the arc.

Grace also committed nine first-half turnovers and gave up nine second-chance points to the Foresters. Jakob Gibbs led Grace with seven points.

Frankie Davidson and Elijah Malone attempted to spark Grace to begin the second half, combining for eight quick points to pull the Lancers within 47-37.

A triple from Davidson trimmed the gap further to eight with 13:30 remaining. A minute later, another Davidson triple pulled Grace to within three.

The Foresters tried to re-establish themselves with 3-pointers on consecutive plays, grabbing a 63-55 lead.

Grace immediately countered with eight unanswered points, including six from Malone to tie the score at 63-63 with 6:22 to play.

A few minutes later, the Foresters scored four points and led by four with just under four minutes on the clock.

Jakob Gibbs then produced baskets on two straight plays. On the next play, Malone posted up his defender and made a clever pass to Jake Wadding for a layup, which put the Lancers on top 72-71 with 1:52 remaining. It was Grace’s first lead since the 11:25 mark of the first half.

During the Foresters’ ensuing trip down the court, Davidson blocked a perimeter shot and raced down the court for an emphatic one-handed jam.

The MOCC crowd reached ear-piercing levels of excitement on Davidson’s breakaway slam as Grace led by three with 1:20 left to play.

The Foresters missed a potential game-tying triple on the next play, and Davidson sank two free throws.

After another missed 3-ball from HU, Grace finished off another fast break with a dunk from Malone.

The Foresters had little time left to comeback and had to settle for the six-point defeat.

Grace outscored HU by 20 in the second half (51 to 31). The Lancers shot 62 percent from the floor after halftime and held Huntington to 28 percent shooting. Grace outrebounded HU by 23 for the game (49 to 26).

Malone led all scorers with 19 points, adding 8 boards, 3 blocks and 2 steals, and Davidson had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 1 block.

Jakob Gibbs tallied 13 points and four boards, and Carter Stoltzfus amassed 8 points, 5 rebounds and 10 assists without a turnover.

Wadding produced 14 points, 8 boards and 2 assists, and Ian Scott added 6 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists.

Grace is now a three-time tourney champ, winning the championship last year in Marian and in 2012 (winning in Winona Lake). Tuesday marked Grace’s second time hosting the league tournament championship.

This season is the first time since the 2019-20 season that a Crossroads League team has won the regular season outright as well as the tournament championship in the same year.

Tagged With: Athletics