Balanced effort leads Lancers past No. 16 Marian

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Grace’s men’s basketball team secured the season sweep over No. 16 Marian on Wednesday, grinding out an 80-70 victory.

The NAIA No. 7-ranked Lancers (19-3, 9-3 Crossroads League) were efficient as usual on offense, shooting a robust 55 percent from the floor as a team and outrebounding Marian by 12.

Grace put four players in the scoring column with nine Lancers scoring a point overall.

Wednesday’s win sets up a massive showdown for Grace on Saturday. Grace will travel to No. 6 Indiana Wesleyan for a 3 p.m. tip. A win would move Grace into a tie for first place in the league standings.

On Wednesday night Marian jumped out to an early lead, looking to avenge last year’s Crossroads League Tournament championship loss in Indy (Grace’s first league tournament title). The Knights blew open an 11-2 lead after just four minutes of play.

Grace found itself doubled up with an 18-9 deficit and faced a 10-point hole midway through the first half.

But the Lancers hit their stride to end the half. Ian Scott made an immediate impact off the bench, scoring six quick points to bring Grace close. A layup from Jake Wadding then tied the score at 30-30.

Grace struggled mightily from the outside to begin the game, missing nine of its first 10 shots from the 3-point line. But the Lancers made up for it as the half slowed down.

With 3:30 remaining, Grace made three straight triples. The first was from Elijah Malone to tie the score at 33. Brycen Graber followed up with a 3-pointer to tie the score again at 36-36.

The final trey came from Jakob Gibbs to put Grace ahead by one.

The Lancers charged into halftime with a 42-38 lead; Grace held Marian scoreless for the final 2:30 of the half.

Scott produced 10 first-half points, shooting 5 of 6 in the half. Malone nearly produced a double-double with eight points and seven boards.

For the half, Grace shot 50 percent and held a plus-eight advantage on the glass. Marian only shot 39 percent but committed just two turnovers to aid its cause.

The Lancers continued to lock down defensively to begin the second half. The Knights were held scoreless for a stretch of 4:17 early in the half, allowing Grace to pull ahead by 11 at 58-47.

Grace continued its onslaught, scoring in the paint and on fastbreaks. Wadding scored a pair of layups, and Carter Stoltzfus’s triple pushed Grace’s cushion to 14.

A few minutes later, Frankie Davidson made a 3-pointer followed by a layup to hand Grace a commanding 20-point lead at 72-52 with 7:13 remaining.

But Grace’s offense hit an untimely speed bump, which nearly derailed the Lancers.

Over the next five minutes, Grace scored just two points, missing five field goals and turning the ball over four times.

The Knights (17-5, 7-5 CL) made a dramatic rally, unleashing an 18-2 run to chop Grace’s comfortable lead down to four at 74-70 with two minutes to play.

Marian had a chance to make it a one-score game, but Scott contested a jumper well to give the Lancers the ball with just over a minute to play.

Grace, in desperate need of a bucket, found it in an unlikely place. With the shot clock winding down, Scott received the ball at the top of the key. He rose up and drained his first 3-point attempt of the season to give Grace a boost with a 77-70 lead with 1:03 to play.

Stoltzfus drew a charge on Marian’s ensuing possession to give the Lancers the ball back.

Marian was forced to foul to extend the game, and Cade Gibbs made three free throws in the final minute to ice the victory.

Scott led Grace in scoring with 15 points. He shot 7 of 8 from the floor and tallied 5 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 assists.

Wadding shot 6 of 7, racking up 12 points, 7 boards and 6 assists. Cade Gibbs notched 12 points and five rebounds, and Malone had 12 points and 11 boards.

Davidson finished with 9 points, 5 boards, 2 assists and 2 blocked shots, Jakob Gibbs had 7 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds. Stoltzfus had 7 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists, and Graber added 3 points, 2 assists and 2 boards.

Grace shot 61 percent from the floor in the second half while holding Marian to 33 percent. The Knights won the turnover battle by 11 (16 to 5), but Marian shot just 27 of 75 (36 percent) for the contest.