WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Grace’s men’s basketball team claimed the NCCAA Midwest Region championship on Friday, defeating Lancaster Bible 89-85.
The Lancers clinched an automatic bid to next week’s NCCAA National Championship courtesy of the regional title.
The game had no bearing on the national tournament, however, as both teams were already guaranteed a spot in the national tournament.
The NCCAA National Championships, hosted by Grace, will begin on Wednesday and run until Saturday at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center.
The Lancers (18-11) led for the majority of Friday’s game, but the Chargers (11-3) kept the game nervously close from start to finish.
The first half was an offensive barnburner. The teams accounted for 100 points in the 20-minute half.
Jakob Gibbs buried a 3-pointer on the first possession of the game, and the Lancers led for the rest of the half.
Grace scored seven of the first nine points in the game and eventually climbed ahead by 12 after an and-1 by Haden Deaton.
The Chargers refused to let Grace roll away with a massive lead, however. LBC continued to play fast and gradually caught up to the Lancers.
The Chargers scored four quick points over the final 40 seconds to come within 51-49 at halftime.
Grace shot incredibly well in the first half, making 70 percent of its field goals (19 of 27). The number was even more impressive considering the Lancers made just 2 of 8 from the 3-point line.
On 2-point tries, Grace made 17 of 19 in the half.
But the Lancers were sloppy with ball control. Grace committed 12 turnovers before halftime, allowing the Chargers to score 20 points off those miscues.
Jake Wadding was dynamic with 13 points and four assists, and Frankie Davidson and Deaton each scored 11 points.
The Chargers grabbed their first lead of the game early in the second half, but the Lancers quickly resumed control.
Elijah Malone converted an and-1, and Davidson and Deaton each hit triples to put Grace back on top.
Another bucket from Malone gave Grace an 82-72 advantage with less than five minutes to go. But the Chargers roared back, quickly pulling to within 85-83 with 1:12 remaining.
Deaton provided a clutch moment 30 seconds later; the senior calmly swished a contested jumper to give Grace a four-point lead, extending the lead to two possessions.
The Chargers tried two desperation shots in the final seconds, but time expired on another comeback bid from LBC.
Wadding led all players with 22 points, shooting 8 of 10 from the floor. He tallied 6 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals.
Davidson was also efficient with 20 points, 9 boards and 3 assists. Deaton amassed 16 points and two steals, and Gibbs had 15 points, 4 boards and 2 steals.
Malone posted a double-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 assists, and Matt Jennings notched five points and three dimes. Jennings was also honored before the game for scoring 1,000 points in his career.
The Lancers will be a high seed in the NCCAA field. Grace will play its opening game on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The bracket and opponents will be unveiled Saturday night.
Tickets are on sale now for the NCCAA tournament at www.gclancers.com/tickets. Tickets will be sold until the arena’s allowed capacity is reached, so fans are encouraged to purchase their online tickets as soon as possible.