Lancers’ comeback falls short

WINONA LAKE, Ind. – A heavyweight battle between No. 6 Grace and Huntington (receiving votes) went to the Foresters by the score of 75-70 on Saturday.

The high-profile battle was deservedly played in front of a near-sellout crowd in a frenzied environment. Huntington pulled out the victory as Grace’s early turnovers and second-half missed free throws caused the Lancers (18-3, 8-3 Crossroads League) to slip.

Grace’s offense was sluggish out of the gate. The Lancers were held to four points for the first 5:20 of action.

Grace fell behind 8-2 early, but Cade Gibbs scored five points in a row, including a triple to level the score at 9-9.

The Lancers managed to pull ahead 28-24 with 7:00 left in the half after a flashy fastbreak play from Ian Scott and Jake Wadding. However, Huntington countered with 10 unanswered points to surge in front.

The Lancers were plagued with turnovers in the first half. Grace lost the ball 14 times, directly leading to 19 points for HU.

The Foresters, on the other hand, turned the ball over three times which led to no Grace points.

Huntington took advantage to pull away before halftime. The Foresters led 45-34 at halftime after canning a stepback 3-pointer just before the clock expired.

Grace (50 percent) had a slightly better shooting percentage than Huntington (47 percent) in the first half, and the Lancers also grabbed seven more rebounds. But Grace’s 14 turnovers proved to be the difference.

After being held to two points in the first half, Frankie Davidson came out aggressively to start the second half. He ripped off seven points over the first four minutes to give Grace some confidence.

The Lancers pulled within four with 14 minutes to play, and the game remained a nailbiter for the rest of the way.

Grace created its offense through transition, attacking quickly and effectively. A variety of quick scores kept an electric crowd at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center on its feet.

But each time the Lancers seemed poised to take the lead, Huntington hit a timely shot.

The lead shrunk to two with eight minutes to play after a fastbreak layup from Jakob Gibbs, but an and-1 from HU gave the visitors breathing room.

With 5:45 on the clock, a layup from Scott brought Grace within one; but the Foresters answered with a triple on the other end of the court.

The Lancers still trailed by five with 2:15 remaining, but two free throws and a layup made the score 69-68. Grace forced a missed shot and was fouled with just under a minute remaining.

But Grace missed both of its free throws to either tie or take the lead, and HU sank two free throws on the ensuing possession.

Jakob Gibbs quickly hit a pull-up jumper with 18 seconds to play to cut HU’s margin to 71-70, but the Foresters hit two more foul shots again. Grace had a look at a game-tying 3-pointer, but the shot from the right wing glanced off the back of the rim, allowing the visitors to secure the upset.

Jakob Gibbs scored a team-high 17 points to go along with six rebounds and three assists, and Cade Gibbs had 14 points (5-8 FG) and six boards.

Wadding poured in 12 points (6-8 FG) and five rebounds off the bench, and Scott also had 10 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists.

Elijah Malone just missed a double-double with 8 points, 11 boards and 2 blocks, Davidson had 9 points, 8 boards and 5 assists, and Carter Stoltzfus passed out seven assists without a turnover.

Grace finished the game shooting 48 percent from the floor, despite going just 3 of 17 (18 percent) on 3-pointers. After making all five of its free throws in the first half, Grace struggled after halftime by shooting 6 of 14 (43 percent).

The Lancers have a stiff pair of tests ahead. Grace will play twice on the road, taking on No. 16 Marian on Wednesday at 7 p.m. and No. 7 Indiana Wesleyan on Saturday at 3 p.m.