From Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette:
Grace returns to role of underdog
Call it a second chance; a new start; a reprieve.
Better still, call it a Grace period.
In spite of losing its last regular season game, then following it up with a first-round Mid-Central Conference tournament loss, Grace College finds itself back in the NAIA Division II men’s basketball national championship tournament today in Point Lookout, Mo.
By getting the second-to-last of the 10 at-large berths handed out by the NAIA, the Lancers, with their 20-10 record, will face 13th-seeded and 21-8 Warner Pacific (Ore.) today in a first-round game at 2:45 p.m. Grace was tied for 20th and Warner Pacific was 14th in the latest NAIA Division II poll.
It will be the second consecutive year for Grace in the national tournament. Last season it got an at-large bid and reached the final eight before losing to eventual national champion Oregon Tech.
This season, the Lancers are back as underdogs.
“What a great opportunity for this group of young men,” Grace coach Jim Kessler said in a statement.
“They have fought through so much adversity and truly deserve a chance to play for a national championship.”
Grace is led by 6-foot-10 senior Eric Gaff, who averaged 21 points and 12.2 rebounds this season.
Gaff added 59 blocked shots and made 234 trips to the free throw line, where he made 156 (66.7 percent).
Michael Wienhorst, a 6-3 senior from Warsaw, adds 13.6 points a game and is the team’s leading three-pointer shooter with 52, and David Swanson, a 6-6 junior, averages 13.5.
Dayton Merrell, a 6-4 freshman from Blackhawk Christian, has played in all 30 games and has started eight.
He averages 4.4 points and 1.6 rebounds.
Should Grace win today, it will play either Ottawa (Kan.) (18-13) or fourth-seeded Walsh (Ohio) (27-3) Friday at 2:45 p.m.
Oklahoma Wesleyan (30-2) is the No. 1 seed, and MCC tournament champion Bethel (30-3) is the No. 2 seed.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Grace won its first game yesterday. Men’s Basketball (A)
Grace vs. Warner Pacific.