WINONA LAKE – It was an end you just have to see to believe.
— Taylor Basketball (@taylor_hoops) February 27, 2020
Grace’s men’s basketball team thought Wednesday’s game was headed to overtime after a dramatic halfcourt shot from Charlie Warner.
But Taylor had other thoughts. With the score tied at 85 apiece, Taylor’s Mason Degenkolb drilled a fullcourt heave near Grace’s bench, just beating the buzzer to give Taylor a dramatic 88-85 victory.
The loss bounces the Lancers (19-12) from the Crossroads League Tournament, shifting Grace’s attention to national tournament play.
Grace, the No. 13 ranked team in the NAIA, has essentially secured a spot in the 2020 NAIA National Championships. The tournament bracket and field will be announced on March 4 with the Lancers headed to Sioux City, S.D., for the 32-team tournament.
Grace had five players in double figures during the defeat, led by 19 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists from Warner.
The first half was a forgettable performance for the Lancers.
Taylor was efficient in scoring to start the game, but Grace made up for it with its long-range shooting.
Grace hit a trio of 3-pointers in the first four minutes to take a 9-8 lead.
The score remained close with Grace trailing 19-18, but the Trojans (17-14) soon seized control of the half.
Taylor unleashed a 14-0 run over a three-minute span. The run was capped off with back-to-back triples from the Trojans to take a 33-18 lead.
Grace found nearly all of its offense from beyond the arc. The Lancers scored 24 of their first 27 points on triples, nailing eight treys. Braxton Linville hit a pair of 3s to keep Grace afloat.
But the Trojans’ offense executed at a high level throughout the half, coasting to a 48-35 lead by halftime.
Taylor made 55 percent of its shots in the half; the Trojans were a perfect 9-of-9 from the foul line and also made 43 percent of its 3-pointers.
Jaret Sons led Grace with nine points, going 3-of-5 from downtown, and Charlie Warner added six points and four assists.
Myles Johnson helped Grace find its footing, scoring on each of the Lancers’ first two possessions after halftime. But the Trojans still found themselves ahead by 15 with 14 minutes to play.
The Lancers tightened up their defense at that point, going on a 9-0 run to pull within 61-55 with 12 minutes to play.
Taylor beefed up its cushion to 10 points, but Grace had its confidence restored.
Warner scored six straight points for Grace, slicing Taylor’s lead to one at 75-74 with 3:30 on the clock.
Later, he drilled another 3-pointer to again make it a one-point game at 78-77 with 2:32 remaining.
The final two minutes of the game produced a free throw shooting contest. Taylor continued to foul Grace to prevent a potential game-tying 3-pointer, and the Lancers fouled Taylor to stop the clock.
Eventually, Grace had the ball with six seconds remaining with an 85-82 deficit. Warner dribbled to halfcourt and launched a deep, floating 3-pointer from inside the halfcourt stripe which banked in off the backboard with 1.6 seconds remaining.
The Lancers’ crowd erupted in jubilation as Warner’s shot incredibly tied the game, which seemed destined for overtime.
But Degenkolb soon shocked the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center crowd with his last-second heave.
Grace was outscored in the paint 20-4 in the first half. After halftime, however, the Lancers outscored the Trojans 22-4 in the paint.
Haden Deaton tallied 17 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists, and Sons had 14 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists. Matt Jennings finished with 11 points, 3 assists and 2 steals, and Linville added 10 points.