Grace drops NCCAA semifinal

WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Grace College’s women’s basketball team had its championship aspirations come to an end in the semifinals of the NCCAA National Tournament.

The Lady Lancers fell to the College of the Ozarks 68-63 on Thursday evening.

The Lady Lancers will finish off the 2022-23 season on Saturday in the third place game. Grace will play Alice Lloyd on Saturday at 10 a.m.

After falling behind 4-0 early in the first quarter, Grace exploded on a 12-0 run. Karlee Feldman and Maddie Ryman combined to score all 12 of the Lady Lancers’ points.

Ryman connected on a pair of trifectas as Grace carried an 18-13 lead into the second stanza.

Grace continued to hit on all cylinders as the second quarter got under way. Kaylee Patton and Kiersten Findley hit on consecutive possessions as the Lady Lancers’ lead neared double digits.

The Lady Lancers’ lead marked its highest of the game at 15 points, after Molly Long hit a driving layup and Ryman converted her third 3-point shot of the game.

Grace maintained the double digit lead, with a 34-22 lead at the halftime break.

The 12-point Grace lead quickly evaporated in the second half. By the 6:43 mark of the third quarter Ozarks had whittled the lead down to just four-points.

In the middle portions of the third both squads went cold from the field.

Kate Rulli and Findley momentarily broke Grace’s cold shooting spell to push the advantage back to nine-points.

The Lady Lancers and Bobcats traded scores to end the quarter and Grace went into the final 10 minutes with a six point lead.

Feldman and Ryman collected the first buckets of the quarter as Grace’s cushion continued to hover around seven points.

The Bobcats cut the lead down to four-points, but a Findley score and a Peyton Murphy corner 3-point bucket once again reestablished Grace’s lead at nine-points.

Ozarks would respond with a 7-0 run to cut the lead down to just two-points with 3:20 left in the game.

Rulli made a nice inside score to briefly break the Bobcats’ scoring run, but the Ozarks rattled off two more scores to tie the game 56 apiece.

The Bobcats captured their first lead since early in the fourth quarter at 62-60 with 1:05 remaining.

Findley nudged Grace back to the lead with an old-fashioned 3-point play, but a pair of Ozark free throws would give the Bobcats a lead they would not relinquish.

Grace came up empty on its final two possessions, ultimately falling by a final score of 68-63.

“This one stings,” said Grace head coach Dan Davis. “Obviously Ozarks deserve credit for executing late, but we didn’t help ourselves tonight. First half we played really well and we did the things that gives us a chance to win games. Seemed like we took our foot of the gas in the third quarter and then in the fourth we didn’t execute the game plan and that falls on all of us. Still have a chance to end the season with a win on Saturday and close out the chapter on what has been the best season in program history.”

Both teams shot 38 percent from the floor, but the Ozarks held a 79 percent to 65 percent advantage at the charity stripe.

Ryman had 18 points and Feldman had a monstrous 15 point, 16 rebound and 6 block performance.