Valiant effort falls short in semifinals

WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Grace’s women’s basketball team went toe-to-toe with the defending NCCAA national champions on Thursday.

Unfortunately for the Lady Lancers, Grace came up short in its upset bid with a 91-76 loss to Mid-America Christian in the national semifinals.

Thursday’s game was Grace’s second semifinal appearance in team history. With the loss, Grace will play in the third-place game on Saturday at 12 p.m. against Roberts Wesleyan to end the season.

Kyannah Stull was sensational on the night, pouring in 24 points to go along with four boards and two assists. She made a career-high 5-of-10 from the 3-point line to keep Grace in contention.

While the Lady Lancers shot 49 percent from the floor and 41 percent from the 3-point line, the Evangels (24-9) were even better. MACU made 52 percent of its shots as a team and 47 percent from beyond the arc.

Grace only had five players score in the contest and tallied a season-low five steals.

The first half was filled with action as each team employed a fast-paced, aggressive style. Brooke Sugg, who battled illness all day, hit two early 3-pointers for an 8-6 lead.

Brooke Treadway was a central figure in the quarter. She scored the final seven points of the quarter for Grace, including an and-1. But MACU ended the period with a 3-pointer to lead by two.

MACU held a slight lead throughout the second quarter, but it never rose above six points. The Evangels scored in the final seconds again to end the half with a 42-37 advantage.

The Evangels did their best to run away with the game in the third quarter; Grace saw its deficit balloon to 56-42 with six minutes remaining in the period. MACU forced Grace into six turnovers in the quarter.

Vironnica Drake and Kamryn Hostetler helped pick up Grace’s offense in the quarter, combining to score 16 points. Their contributions helped Grace stay within striking distance as the Lady Lancers trailed by seven entering the fourth quarter.

Stull sank a 3-pointer immediately into the final period, which trimmed MACU’s lead down to four. With 7:24 on the clock, Drake scored in the paint to make Grace’s deficit 73-69.

But each time Grace seemed to grab momentum, the Evangels would respond with a timely basket.

Back-to-back triples from Stull made the score 81-76 with 4:44 remaining in the game. But Grace’s offense came up empty on its final eight possessions after that juncture. The Lady Lancers committed three turnovers with five missed shots over the final four minutes, allowing MACU to pull away with a 15-point win.

Drake finished with 17 points and two assists, and Sugg scored 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting on 3-pointers.

Hostetler tallied 10 points, 2 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals, and Treadway added nine points and five boards.

Lexi Minix also came in and provided important defensive minutes, chipping in with two assists and three rebounds to go along with multiple charges drawn.