MISHAWAKA – The Grace College women’s basketball team didn’t let anything get in the way of a key road win Saturday afternoon.
Not even a delayed arrival at Bethel College due to a blown out tire on the team bus en route to the Crossroads League contest.
The gritty Lancers rode an outstanding first-half performance to top the host Pilots 74-69 in the conference matchup in the Wiekamp Center.
Grace, which has battled through injuries and illness, persevered again on this day to earn a season sweep of Bethel.
Darrian Patton scored a career-high 20 points and Haley Richardson netted 19 as the Lancers improved to 14-12 overall and move to 9-5 in league play. Grace now sits in a tie for second place in the league standings.
The trio of Savannah Bley, Madison Schrock and Kamalia Glenn each had 16 points to pace the Pilots. Bethel, which saw its modest two-game win streak stopped, falls to 8-18 overall and 5-9 in conference action.
“Maybe we should arrive 40 minutes before tip-off to the rest of our road games,” quipped Grace College coach Scott Blum.
In all seriousness, Blum was very pleased with the effort of his team as it picked up just its third road win in 10 games this season.
“With injuries and illness, we only had six players at practice yesterday (Friday),” explained Blum. “We’ve had to grind every game out this year and that’s been our M.O. We’ve won the majority of our games at the end. I credit our girls. They have bought in to being more physical and tougher.”
“This is a big win today for us. An awesome win on the road. I’m proud of the way our girls were focused with arriving here late like we did.”
Grace, which beat Bethel 68-60 at home on Dec. 3, sealed the win when Richardson hit a pair of free throws with 11.8 seconds to play.
The Lancers, who never trailed in the game, started strong. Grace used an 8-1 run to close the opening quarter to take a 21-14 lead. Patton scored eight points and Richardson six in the first period. Grace was up 44-32 at halftime thanks to a 65 percent shooting effort and also forcing Bethel into 10 turnovers in the opening half.
“That was by far our best half of the year,” said Blum of the first 20 minutes. “We were patient, shot 65 percent and only had four turnovers.”
Bethel rallied in the third period to get back into the game. The hosts cut the deficit down to two at 50-48 before a late Grace hoop made it 52-48 at the end of the third period. The Lancers responded to start the final frame, getting a key 9-0 run to make it 61-48. Patton scored five points and Richardson the other four in the pivotal stretch.
Patton, a senior guard from Merrillville, hit 8-10 shots. She was 3-3 from distance and also had six rebounds. Richardson, a 6-3 senior forward who played at West Noble High School, was 7-14 from the field for her 19 points. Freshman guard Vironnica Drake had 12 points and sophomore Lauren Godfrey 10 for the Lancers. Drake, who hails from Marion, also had six rebounds and six assists in the win.
Junior guard Kelsie Peterson, who played at West Noble, had seven points for Grace. Sophomore forward Pam Miller, a WCHS graduate, added six points for the Lancers.
Grace shot 27-50 overall from the field, including 6-12 from distance. The Lancers were 14-19 from the line and had 12 turnovers, their second lowest total of the season.
Bley, a senior forward who played at NorthWood High School, had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Senior guard Schlock, a Northridge High School product, and sophomore Glenn each had 16 points. Sophomore Macie Hinen, a Columbia City product, had six points and 13 rebounds.
Bethel shot 23-46 overall from the field, but just 5-15 from distance. The hosts were 18-23 from the line and had 14 turnovers in the loss.
Grace plays at No. 2 ranked Marian and Bethel travels to Spring Arbor in league games Wednesday night. Marian is the current league leader and the NAIA defending national champions.