Grace College’s men’s basketball team went cold over the final minutes of the NCCAA national semifinals, falling 79-76 to Northwestern (Minn.) on Thursday.
The Lancers led by six with 4:43 remaining, but Grace scored just one more point which opened the door for a comeback by the Eagles.
The loss spoils Grace’s hopes of a national championship. The Lancers will end the year in the third-place game on Saturday against Alice Lloyd at noon.
The Eagles started the game firing from deep, and the strategy paid off at the onset. UNW hit four triples over the first 5:08, but the score remained tied at 12-12.
The score stayed close and was tied six times in the half. Foul trouble plagued both teams early as two starters for each team picked up two fouls in the half.
UNW tried to open up a lead down the stretch thanks to a banked 3-pointer, opening up a 34-30 lead.
Gibbs then drove the paint for a tough layup in the final seconds of the half, lifting Grace to a 39-34 lead at halftime.
Grace shot 48 percent from the field in the half compared to 37 percent for the Eagles. Deaton scored 12 points on 3 of 4 shooting from beyond the arc.
Elijah Malone converted an and-1 early in the second half to increase Grace’s lead to eight, which proved to be the largest lead of the game.
The Eagles continued to battle and erased Grace’s lead in just four minutes. Another banked triple gave UNW a two-point edge with 13 minutes to play.
The teams traded small leads over the next seven minutes.
With less than six minutes remaining, Grace tried to pull away. Deaton and Davidson hit timely 3s, and Gibbs scored five points as Grace grabbed a 75-69 lead with 4:30 remaining.
But after a timeout from UNW, the Eagles’ defense clamped down on Grace’s attack. The Lancers came up empty on their next seven possessions.
The Eagles seized the opportunity to grab the win. UNW hit two triples over the final two minutes, the last of which put the Eagles ahead 77-76 with under a minute to play.
Both teams misfired on their next possessions, giving Grace a chance to win the game with 10 seconds on the clock. But the Lancers’ 3-point try from the corner missed the mark, and UNW sank two foul shots with three seconds left to ice the win.
A desperation triple from halfcourt by Grace was off the mark, allowing the Eagles to earn a place in the national championship game. UNW will host Ottawa on Saturday at 5 p.m. in the men’s championship.