WINONA LAKE – The NCCAA National Championships started on a sour note for Grace’s women’s basketball team on Wednesday.
The Lady Lancers (15-19) fell to fourth-seeded Emmanuel 73-53 in the opening round of the national tournament.
The loss sends Grace to the consolation bracket of the tournament. The Lady Lancers will play Bluefield in their next round on Thursday at 1:45 p.m.
As a team, Grace struggled on the offensive end. The Lady Lancers combined to shoot 25 percent in each half and were 2-of-18 (11 percent) from the 3-point line.
“We have no excuses, they just beat us tonight,” said Grace College head coach Scott Blum. “Give Emmanuel a lot of credit. They beat us more than we beat ourselves. Granted, we didn’t hit any threes (2-18). We didn’t adjust as the game went on.”
In the first quarter, Darian Patton was an instrumental figure for Grace. The senior scored seven of Grace’s 10 points, but the Lions (16-12) still led 17-10.
Emmanuel looked to pull away in the second quarter. The Lions unleashed an 18-2 run to blow open a 35-18 lead with 2:27 to play in the half.
But Grace fought back into contention with a late surge. Vironnica Drake put up four quick points, and Kelsie Peterson hit a free throw in the final seconds to cut Emmanuel’s margin to 35-25 at halftime.
The third quarter virtually ended the game, as Emmanuel outscored Grace 20-8. The Lions opened up a 22-point lead by the end of the period, and Emmanuel cruised to victory in the fourth.
Drake and Patton scored 12 points to lead Grace, and Peterson added eight points and four boards.
Pam Miller chipped in six points and five rebounds, and Chloe Pridgen tallied four points and four boards.
“We’ve been here enough in this tournament that now it’s my job to get them motivated to play two games for pride,” Blum said. “The pressure is off now, we can’t win a championship, now it’s the pride of putting on the Grace jersey and finishing strong and being together. Sometimes we seem to respond better that way, and maybe that catches on for us these final two games. This group loves to play and loves to compete.”
Grace will meet Bluefield at 1:45 p.m. Thursday afternoon.