Poor Shooting Leads to First-Round Loss
POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. – A shooting drought in the second half doomed Grace’s hopes of a deep tournament run at the NAIA Division II men’s basketball tournament on Thursday evening.
The Lancers (22-11) shot 30 percent in the second period compared to 50 percent for Dakota Wesleyan and slipped in the first round, 71-62.
Grace only turned the ball over six times, a season low, but the Lancers’ poor shooting combined with getting outscored 26-4 off the bench led to their defeat.
“We didn’t turn it over, so that’s a good thing, but you have to make shots,” said head coach Jim Kessler. “Our bench is usually strong, but we got oustscored significantly.”
Both teams started the game sluggish, and Grace didn’t get on the board until four minutes into the contest. David Henry kept the Lancers (22-11) in the game and nailed two early threes, but Grace still found themselves down 23-15 with seven minutes remaining in the half.
Duke Johnson and Bruce Grimm Jr., however, scored Grace’s next 11 points and pioneered a 15-0 run to help the Lancers earn their first lead of the game and take a 30-23 advantage. The Lancers held a 35-32 lead at the break.
In the second period, Grace surrendered their lead in the first five minutes of the half, and the Tigers (24-8) mounted a 20-6 run to run away with the game. Henry scored seven points in a row in the final minute of the game including an impressive four-point play, but Grace’s comeback efforts came too late in the contest.
“We started both halves slow,” Kessler continued. “They had people who hit shots that we were not expecting to hit shots. We just didn’t make shots.”
Greg Miller led Grace’s scoring with 16 points on 7 of 15 shooting, Johnson tallied 15, Henry totaled 13 and Elliot Smith chipped in 10. Johnson also grabbed 10 rebounds, his eighth double-double of the year, Grimm totaled 10 assists with no turnovers, and Miller grabbed seven boards.
The game concludes Grace’s 2010-11 campaign where they qualified for their third NAIA tournament in four years and finished second in the MCC regular season standings.
It also marks the end of seniors Dave Henry and Steve Kaufman’s four-year careers with the Lancers. Henry and Kaufman played in three NAIA national tournaments, arguably the best era of Lancer basketball, and competed in four national tournaments overall.