WINONA LAKE – Friday evening’s men’s basketball game was a night to remember for Grace fans.
Records fell and a milestone was accomplished during the Lancers’ 113-90 victory over Grace Bible College in the Wyndham Garden Terry Polston Hoops for Hope.
Stephen Halstead broke his own program record with a dazzling display from deep. Halstead buried a record 11-of-17 from the 3-point line, the last of which gave the junior 35 points and sent the crowd at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center into a frenzy.
Grace’s NAIA Hall of Fame head coach Jim Kessler also won the 750th game of his legendary career on Friday night. He currently sits fourth among active NAIA Div. II men’s coaches for career wins.
The win moves the Lancers (7-1) into the championship game of the Hoops for Hope tourney on Saturday at 4 p.m.; Grace will be challenged for the title by No. 23 Rochester, who is a perfect 10-0 after defeating Lincoln Christian 93-55 earlier on Friday.
“I was pleased with our team. We’ve practiced well, and they played with passion tonight,” Kessler said in a postgame radio interview. “I’m extremely proud of the men’s effort tonight.”
The Tigers (4-3) never tasted the lead. The first half was back and forth except for two crucial runs by Grace.
The first run came 10 minutes into the game. With the score knotted 24-24, Halstead buried a triple—his fourth of the game—to spark a 10-0 run. Chad Hoffer scored four points during Grace’s run to give the Lancers a 10-point lead.
Halstead caught fire with five minutes left in the half. He buried a remarkable four 3-pointers in a 2:13 span to help Grace to a 17-point cushion.
Fortunately for Grace Bible, the Tigers’ offense rallied late in the half to cut the deficit to 55-44 at halftime.
Halstead drilled eight 3-pointers in the first half for 24 points. Braxton Linville was the setup man for many of Halstead’s triples, finishing with 10 assists in the first half.
The Tigers continued to answer most of Grace’s runs, even into the opening minutes of the second half; Grace Bible remained within striking distance at 69-61 with 13:30 on the clock.
Grace eventually put the game out of reach with a 15-3 run over the next four minutes. Jaret Sons bookended Grace’s spurt with a pair of 3-pointers as the Lancers opened up a 20-point cushion.
With the outcome essentially decided, the only remaining intrigue for the final minutes centered around Halstead. The junior tied his own program record with his 10th 3-pointer with 4:25 remaining.
Halstead brought the crowd to its feet with his 11th triple two minutes later. He pulled up at the top of the key and launched his record-breaking shot, which caught the front edge of the rim and fell gently off the glass into the net with 2:29 to play.
“My teammates and coaches put me in great positions to succeed, and I was able to knock down some open shots tonight. It was a great night for us,” Halstead said. “My teammates know when I’m in that zone to get me the ball. I give them a look to say, ‘Keep finding me because when it’s going, it’s going.’”
Halstead’s 35 points were one off his career high of 36. Sons scored 17 efficient points in 19 minutes, hitting 6-of-8 from the floor and 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.
Erik Bowen tallied 14 points, 16 rebounds and 5 assists, and Logan Godfrey produced 13 points and seven boards.
Linville racked up 13 assists, falling just shy of the program record of 16 assists in a single game. Hoffer chipped in 14 points and four assists.