WINONA LAKE – Wednesday’s game between Grace’s women’s basketball team and No. 12 Indiana Wesleyan seemed destined to go down to the final possession.
Fortunately for the Lady Lancers, Grace made the winning plays in the last minute to earn a 45-43 victory over IWU at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center.
Darian Patton hit the game-winning basket with 31 seconds on the clock, and the Lady Lancers (11-10, 6-3 Crossroads League) produced defensive stops to seal the win.
The victory moves Grace into third place in the league standings, just two games behind the overall leader Marian.
“We know that we are not going to win games by huge margins, so the girls understand we need to grind out wins and finish games with late execution like tonight,” said Grace head coach Scott Blum. “In the huddles late in the game, the ladies didn’t show any fear. They felt like they were going to get a stop and win the game, and that’s exactly what they did. It was a great team effort and probably our best defensive effort all year.”
Grace’s defense sparked its play in the first half. The Lady Lancers forced IWU into seven turnovers in the first half.
The score was knotted 11-11 after one quarter as each side struggled to gain momentum on offense.
In the second quarter, Grace was held to three points for the first six minutes. As a result IWU opened up a six-point lead.
The Lady Lancers found their spark from the outside, beating IWU’s zone with the 3-point shot. Kelsie Peterson and Vironnica Drake hit back-to-back triples to tie the game.
On the next possession, Drake poked the ball away on defense and beat her opponent to the loose ball. While on the ground, Drake somehow flipped a pass ahead to a charging Haley Richardson for a fastbreak layup to bring the Grace crowd to its feet.
The final possession of the half went to Grace, and Peterson made it count with a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to lift the Lady Lancers to a 25-22 advantage.
Grace had an assist on all 10 made field goals before halftime and also grabbed six offensive boards.
The Lady Lancers led for the entirety of the third quarter but never by much. Drake and Peterson hit two quick 3s in the quarter to give Grace a six-point edge.
Offense was at a premium in the fourth quarter. While Grace started the quarter ahead by five, IWU whittled it down and eventually took the lead at 41-40 with 7:17 on the clock.
Grace retook the lead on the next possession thanks to a putback layup from Lauren Godfrey, but the Wildcats tied the game again at 43-43 with 5:01 left in the game.
Incredibly, Grace held IWU scoreless for the remainder of the contest. The Wildcats were stifled by Grace’s pressure and committed five turnovers and missed two shots over their last seven possessions.
With the shot clock winding down and less than a minute to play, Patton drove down the middle of the lane and floated up a one-handed shot that swished in and proved to be the winner. It was also Patton’s only points of the game.
While Grace forced IWU to commit a turnover on the ensuing possession — the Wildcats’ fourth straight turnover — the Lady Lancers returned the favor with a turnover on the next inbounds pass.
Drake forced valuable seconds to tick off the clock with a few deflections, forcing IWU to go the length of the floor with 1.7 seconds left. The Wildcats were unable to get a shot off from beyond halfcourt to secure the upset win for Grace.
For the game, Peterson tied for scoring honors with 12 points, hitting 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. Drake finished with 8 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists, and Chloe Pridgen scored eight big points off the bench.
Haley Richardson tallied 6 points, 5 boards and 3 assists, Patton had 2 points, 6 assists and 3 rebounds, and Hannah Adams chipped in five points and two assists.
Wednesday’s game was also a Black Out to support the mission of Destiny Rescue. Over $1,500 was raised to support the mission of Destiny Rescue to save children from sex trafficking.
The Lady Lancers will remain at home on Saturday for a doubleheader against Taylor. The women’s game will start at 1 p.m. with the men’s game to follow at 3 p.m. at the MOCC.