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Poor shooting unravels Lancers against Bluefield

WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Grace’s men’s basketball team was unable to recover from a handful of scoring droughts on Wednesday, losing to Bluefield 77-74 to kick off the NCCAA National Championships.

The Lancers shot just 38 percent as a team compared to 48 percent for the Rams, and Grace’s potential game-tying shot missed its mark.

The loss officially ends Grace’s chance at hoisting a championship trophy, but two games still remain in head coach Jim Kessler’s career. The Lancers shift to the consolation bracket, including a 10:15 a.m. matchup against Nebraska Christian on Thursday morning.

Grace’s final game will be on Friday at either 1 p.m. or 5 p.m. depending on Thursday’s result.

The first half could not have started worse for Grace. Bluefield drilled a 3-pointer on the first possession, and the Rams slowly built up a lead.

Grace went scoreless for over five minutes of action early in the half. The Rams (19-13) took advantage with an 11-0 run to go ahead 20-10.

With 9:38 remaining, the Rams still led 24-12 before Grace started to show signs of life.

Jaret Sons buried a pair 3-pointers in quick succession, and Martin Schiele then hit his own transition triple to put Grace on top 25-24.

Grace suffered another drought to end the half, mustering just one point over the final 3:22. Bluefield was able to grab a slight 33-32 lead at halftime.

Grace only shot 32 percent from the floor, including 3-of-11 from beyond the arc (27 percent). The Lancers (16-16) did have a significant advantage at the line, making nine free throws compared to just one attempt for Bluefield.

The story repeated itself in the second half. Grace hit a trey to start the half, but the Lancers did not score again for the next 4:20 of play.

Bluefield began to pull away thanks to its long-range shooting. The Rams made four 3-pointers in a two-minute span to lead 47-35.

Haden Deaton took matters into his own hands at that point, going on a 7-0 run by himself to pull Grace back within five.

The Lancers continued to apply pressure on Bluefield until a long-range outburst sparked Grace. Charlie Warner scored eight quick points with a pair of triples, and Schiele sank another 3-pointer to tie the score at 65-65 with 5:58 remaining.

The Rams, to their credit, refused to surrender the lead. Each time Grace got close, Bluefield scored.

The Rams had a chance to ease away with a six-point lead and less than two minutes on the clock, but Warner scored four points down the stretch, and Logan Godfrey made a foul shot which made the score 75-74 with less than 20 seconds remaining.

Bluefield was fouled and made both free throws with 13 seconds remaining. Grace had a chance to tie the score in the final frantic seconds, but the Lancers’ buzzer-beating triple was off the mark.

The Lancers did have a 19-6 advantage in free throw attempts, but Grace’s poor shooting from the floor (24-of-63) was hard to overcome.

Deaton led all players with 22 points to go along with six rebounds, Warner scored 19 points, and Godfrey chipped in 9 points, 8 boards and 3 assists.

Schiele was instrumental off the bench with 12 points in 19 minutes, shooting 4-of-5 overall, 2-of-3 from beyond the arc and 2-of-2 from the foul line.

Jaret Sons finished with 8 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists off the bench, and Braxton Linville grabbed eight rebounds.