GOSHEN – It was all about a lefty and the line for the Grace College women’s basketball team Saturday.
Super southpaw Juaneice Jackson continued her stellar season and the Lancers were fine from the free throw line in holding off host Goshen College for a 78-69 victory.
Jackson, slowed only by foul trouble, poured in a game-high 26 points to lead a quartet of double figure scorers for Grace in the Crossroads League win.
The Lancers, who improve to 12-5 overall and 3-2 in league play, also drained 27-of-33 free throw attempts. Grace hit an incredible 23-of-24 from the stripe in a marathon final half featuring a plethora of foul calls. The hosts were 15-of-20 from the line in the contest.
Sophomore Allison Kauffman had 16 points and 10 rebounds and was a perfect 10-of-10 from the line for Grace. Freshman Gabby Bryant scored 12 points and senior Jayla Starks 10 for the Lancers.
Senior Emily Bidwell, who played at Whitko High School, had seven points and four rebounds for the Lancers.
Jo’Mani Thomas, a bruising freshman forward, had 23 points and nine rebounds off the bench to lead the host Maple Leafs. Liz Tecca scored 12 points for Goshen, which drops to 2-15 overall and 0-5 in Crossroads League play.
Paige Davis, a Triton High School product, started for the Leafs. The senior guard did not score in 13 minutes of action. Sophomore Jaime Stack, a Fairfield High School product, turned in 25 minutes of outstanding effort off the bench for the hosts. The tough guard had nine points and six rebounds and was all over the court for the Leafs. Senior Bethany Lemler, another Triton alum, did not play Saturday for Goshen.
Grace, which never trailed in the game, saw an early rout turn into quite the tussle late against the overmatched, yet scrappy hosts. Goshen, which has now lost their last five contests versus the Lancers, were without leading scorer and rebounder Mary Hathaway. The 6-0 senior from Fort Wayne, who was averaging 13.1 points and 10.9 rebounds per game, is ineligible for the rest of the season.
The Lancers, who led by as many as 17 points in the opening half, saw their lead cut to 57-53 with about eight minutes to play. Jackson, the athletic and explosive junior guard from Gary, then hit a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws to give her team a cushion. Grace held on down the stretch as Bryant hit big free throws as did Kauffman.
“We won today because of our talent and being athletic and we know that,” said Grace College coach Scott Blum, himself a former star player for the Lancers. “Give Goshen credit. They played harder than us. They hung around and it was a dogfight in the second half.
“The thing is that we need the same effort from everyone on our team when they play. We subbed in the first half and lost effort and focus. We should have been up 30 at halftime. We got lackadaisical.
“But, good teams find a way to win and we did that. The good thing is that we did execute down the stretch and hit free throws. I’m very pleased with how we attacked and executed late in the game and the one good thing from this is the 23-24 free throws in the second half.”
Jackson, Grace’s top scorer at 15.2 points-per -game, hit a driving bucket just 13 seconds into the game Saturday. The Lancers bolted to a quick 18-2 lead to open the game and it appeared the rout was on. But with Blum going to his bench early and often, Goshen worked its way back into it by halftime as they trailed 36-25. Jackson scored 17 points in the opening half.
The Lancers saw their second-half lead trimmed to as little as three at 51-48 with 10 minutes to play. Thomas scored 15 of her points in the final half for the hosts, while Tecca had all 12 of her points after intermission and Stack netted all nine of her points in the second half surge by the Leafs.
Kauffman, who averages almost 13 points and a team best seven rebounds per game, had a big second half effort for Grace with a dozen points.
“Those two have played like this all year for us,” said Blum of his dynamite duo of Jackson and Kauffman. “JJ just can create so much for us and Allison has been solid and consistent all season.”
The Lancers won despite committing 23 turnovers. Goshen, which started the season 0-11, had 30 miscues in the loss. Grace nabbed 18 steals in the win with Starks coming up with a career high of eight.
Grace plays three league foes in the next week. The Lancers hosts Taylor Tuesday night at 7 p.m. and then travels to Mishawaka Thursday to face Bethel at 7 p.m. and to St. Francis Saturday for a 1 p.m. tilt. Goshen plays at Indiana Wesleyan Tuesday, hosts Huntington Thursday and travels to Spring Arbor on Saturday.