From Sunday’s Fort Wayne (IN) Journal-Gazette:
Lancers offense sputters
Pat Dailey – Special to The Journal Gazette
POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. – Grace coach Jim Kessler blamed himself for senior center Eric Gaff not being enough a part of the Lancers’ offense in their 77-73 loss to Black Hills State at the NAIA Division II national tournament on Saturday.
The 6-foot-10 Gaff, who leads the nation in double-doubles with 24, had 14 points and seven rebounds. He was only 4 of 7 from the field.
“One of the goals we had was to do the things that got us here,” Kessler said. “But Eric needs to take more than seven shots. We had four people take more shots than him and another shot as much as him. When that happens, that’s an error on our part as coaches. We should have engineered a (game plan) in which he took more shots than that.
“I will always feel like I erred by not putting it in his hands more often.”
Gaff played with four fouls over the final four minutes but logged 31 minutes in his Grace finale.
The Lancers (22-10) trailed 41-25 at halftime as Gaff scored just two points. They were 8 of 31 from the field at intermission while Black Hills State (29-4) was 7 of 15 on three-pointers.
But Grace got hot in the second half, shooting 59 percent from the field (17-of-29). The Lancers used a 37-21 run to knot the score at 62.
In the final three minutes, Black Hills State guard Cain Atkinson broke the tie with a three-pointer, the Yellow Jackets’ Spencer Childress followed with a three-pointer and Atkinson capped a 9-2 run by hitting another trey.
Black Hills State outscored Grace from the three-point line 33-18.
“We dug ourselves too big of a hole in the first half,” Grace forward Michael Wienhorst said. “I give our team credit, though. We gave ourselves a chance to win. We just couldn’t overcome their big shots down the stretch.”
Grace received 29 points from its bench, getting a big lift from backup forward Duke Johnson. The 6-11 freshman had 19 points, six rebounds and a block.
“We may have found an heir apparent,” Kessler said of Johnson while referring to the loss of Gaff.
Up next for Gaff likely is a playing overseas.
“That’s what I’m planning to do,” Gaff said.