By Mike Deak
WINONA LAKE – It just wasn’t Grace’s day in the opening round of the NCCAA Women’s Basketball National Championships.
Concordia seemingly wouldn’t miss in the second half as Grace clung to hope, the Cardinals flying away with a 74-55 win Wednesday afternoon.
“Sometimes that’s just the game of basketball,” stated Grace College head coach Dan Davis.
Grace hit an ice cold stretch in the second quarter that signaled the end of its championship hopes. After Maddie Ryman buried a three with 6:51 left in the first half, Grace would not hit a field goal the remainder of the half. The Lady Lancers then opened the third quarter without a bucket for almost a full three minutes before Ryman hit a 15-footer.
In that stretch, Grace went from down five, 26-21, to down 10, 38-28, in the drought. In the third quarter, however, Grace only hit four field goals as Concordia was pulling away. A Stephanie Abraham three at the horn to end the third made it 51-34 as the dream was closing quickly.
“I mean, you look at their roster, and it’s (J’may) Simmons and (Katie) Snow, we didn’t even have daggum Stephanie Abraham on the scouting report,” Davis said. “You can’t prepare for 7-7 from the floor and 17 points when she doesn’t do that. She wasn’t even out there when we faced them the first time.”
Abraham was 3-3 from three-point range to help her unassumed 17 points, Simmons had 18 points and eight rebounds and Snow had just four points and seven rebounds but was saddled with foul trouble for much of the first three quarters.
The shooting woes crippled Grace, which shot just 30 percent from the floor for the game (21-71). Kyannah Stull had 21 points for the Lancers, but was 9-26 getting there and just 3-11 from three-point range. Ryman would end with 14 points, and Concordia made sure the Grace interior was neutralized, holding the post to 4-17 shooting from the floor.
Grace had won the regular season matchup between the two teams, 69-60, at Concordia in late October.
The Lady Lancers (12-17) fall to the consolation bracket to meet Columbia International at 10:15 a.m. Thursday.
Concordia (16-8) takes on Northwestern in the semi-finals with a 1:45 start Thursday afternoon.
“It’s just hard, and nothing I could put my finger to,” summed up Davis of the day. “There’s nothing more I could ask of them. They’ve worked their tails off coming into the tournament, we had three weeks to get ready. We just haven’t been able to find that consistent energy. I wish I could find out what it is. We were sharp at practice. We were energetic. We just didn’t hit shots. Key (Stull), I hate to say it, but she takes 26 shots and we probably needed her to take more shots. She’s our engine. But when you get in scramble mode, you’ve gotta find a way to score the ball.
“It is what it is, we just have had a hard time scoring the ball this year.”