WINONA LAKE – A big second-half from Chad Hoffer was punctuated by the game-winning basket to propel the Grace College men’s basketball team to a 65-64 conference win over Spring Arbor on Saturday afternoon.
Hoffer, who scored all nine of his points after halftime, made a number of big plays in the second half for the Lancers (14-14, 6-10 Crossroads League). No play was bigger than his last.
With the clock winding down and Spring Arbor clinging to a one-point lead, Hoffer drove into the lane with reckless abandon. The Tippecanoe Valley High School product muscled up a leaning shot as he was fouled, converting the basket with 4.1 seconds remaining to send the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center crowd into euphoria.
A desperation halfcourt heave from the Cougars (16-12, 8-8 CL) clanged off the backboard, sealing Grace’s win.
The victory puts Grace in a tie for seventh place in the league standings with just two games to play. The Lancers will end the regular season next week, hosting No. 19 St. Francis on Wednesday 8 p.m. as part of a doubleheader and then traveling to Taylor on Saturday.
Erik Bowen led all players with 17 points, hitting 8-of-14 from the floor, and Logan Godfrey produced a double-double with 10 points and 13 boards.
The game was evenly played across most categories. Grace (47 percent) shot slightly better than Spring Arbor (42 percent) and had a plus-four advantage in rebounds.
The Cougars, who are receiving votes in the NAIA, impressed in the first half. Spring Arbor scored the first points of the game and did not trail before halftime. The Cougars went ahead 26-14 after back-to-back 3-pointers with 7:38 to play.
Grace came out of a timeout with more focus and worked to eliminate Spring Arbor’s cushion. Bowen was hard to stop in the final minutes of the half as the junior scored 11 points in the final 3:48.
Bowen’s last points of the half came on a 3-pointer from the top of the key as the clock expired, tying the game 35-35 at halftime.
Bowen also scored the first points of the second half to give Grace its first lead of the afternoon. The Lancers led by six with 13:29 on the clock, but the Cougars rallied back in front. Spring Arbor went on a 13-2 spurt to grab a five-point lead at 56-51.
Freshman guard Braxton Linville hit a 3-pointer to help slow Spring Arbor’s momentum, and Chad Hoffer started getting hot. Hoffer scored five quick points, including an and-1, to give Grace a boost. He then drew a charge on defense to keep momentum on the Lancers’ side.
The game was dictated by defense over the last minutes. Spring Arbor hit a pair of free throws with 1:46 remaining to go up 64-63, and the Cougars were shut out for the rest of regulation.
Grace had a few chances to win the game over the last minute, but the dramatic winner waited until the final seconds from Hoffer.
Tre Olive, who battled foul trouble, filled the stat sheet with 10 points, four boards, three steals and two blocks, and Charlie Warner scored seven points.
Olive, along with WCHS graduate John Swanson, were honored on Senior Day.
Linville, a NorthWood High School product, tallied six points, six assists and four rebounds, and Stephen Halstead scored four points.
Spring Arbor freshman Paul Marandet, a WCHS graduate, tied for team-high scoring honors with 14 points. The stellar point guard also led the Cougars with nine rebounds and four assists.
Spring Arbor plays at Goshen College Tuesday at 7 p.m.