BRANSON, Mo. – The Grace College men’s basketball team could not replicate its late-game magic again on Friday, falling to Southern Oregon 68-62 in the NAIA Second Round.
The Lancers (22-11) led for nearly the entire first 30 minutes of action, but the Raiders (26-9) surged ahead late to advance to the national quarterfinals.
The loss shifts Grace’s focus to next week’s 2015 NCCAA National Championships. Grace will enter the tournament as the host school and will look to improve on last year’s second-place finish. NCCAA Nationals are held March 18-21 at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center. (NCCAA TOURNAMENT CENTRAL)
A day after pulling the upset of No. 7 Bellevue thanks to a tenacious defense, the Lancers’ defense picked up where it left off on Friday. Grace forced Southern Oregon into turnovers on the first two possessions. The Lancers came out firing, making its first three shots and taking a 9-2 lead.
Chad Hoffer provided a major offensive spark off the bench in the first half, ripping off 11 points as Grace went ahead 24-14. The Raiders responded with nine straight points to trim Grace’s cushion to one.
Southern Oregon eventually tied the score at 29-29 with less than seven minutes to play in the half, but the Lancers pulled ahead 39-35 at halftime. Both teams shot well from the field with the Raiders at 54 percent and Grace at 52 percent. Grace made one more 3-pointer and had one less turnover than Southern Oregon over the first 20 minutes.
The second half was back-and-forth with Grace refusing to surrender the lead. The Raiders finally claimed their first lead of the game at 50-49 with 11 minutes remaining. Southern Oregon grabbed its largest lead at 59-53 with six minutes to play, but the Lancers clawed back within striking distance.
Caleb Featherston sank a clutch jumper with the shot clock expiring, pulling Grace to within 62-61 with 2:00 on the clock. After a defensive stop, Grace missed a jumper, but Dennis Williams grabbed the offensive board and was fouled with 50.1 seconds to play. Williams hit 1-of-2 to tie the game.
The Raiders were fouled on their end of the floor and hit both shots to take a two-point lead. Logan Irwin went to the foul line and missed the front-end of a bonus free throw. Grace fouled and was then whistled for a technical foul, allowing the Raiders to claim a five-point edge from the free throw line with 19.2 seconds remaining. The Lancers turned the ball over on their next possession, leading to the inevitable defeat.
For the second half, Grace was outscored 33-23. The Lancers hit just 33 percent from the floor, 13 percent from the 3-point line (1-of-8) and 55 percent from the foul line.
Featherston led Grace in scoring with 13 points, and Irwin added 12 points and five boards. Hoffer tallied 12 points in 16 minutes off the bench, and Vanderhegghen notched 11 points, 4 boards and a game-high 4 steals.
Grace will find out its opponent for next week’s NCCAA Nationals when the official bracket and tournament field is announced late Saturday night.