Grace Tigers lose in national semifinals, will play Sunday for 3rd place

(GraceTigers.com news release)

Ankeny, IA – A motivated Grace Tigers team took the floor Friday night as they faced Randall University, a team that defeated them in overtime of last year’s NCCAA DII National Championship game.  This year’s semifinal game would be nothing short of spectacular, needing overtime as well to determine the result.

It was evident in the first half that the game would be a battle, as the Tigers went into the break with a slim advantage at 39-38.  The Saints started the second half on a mission, as they put together a 6-0 run to take a 44-39 lead.  The Tigers quickly fired back with a 12-0 run of their own, taking a 51-44 lead which would be their largest lead of the second half.  For the final 10 minutes of the game, the intensity level in the gym was sky high, with overwhelming evidence that the players on both sides were determined not to lose.  The Tigers would not let go of their lead, but the Saints kept hanging around and would cut it to 2 on multiple occasions.  After a huge three-point shot from freshman Brandon Winchester-Jones with 1:11 remaining in the game, the Tigers were up 71-66.  The Saints would then score to cut the lead to 3, and subsequently get a defensive stop and a basket and a foul on the next possession to tie the game at 71-71 with 25 seconds remaining.  Sophomore Austin Jackson‘s shot would fall just short at the end of regulation.

Senior Jared Bradford kicked off overtime by knocking down a three point shot, but the Saints quickly answered twice and took the lead.  After trading baskets throughout the rest of the extra period, the Saints would knock down a couple free throws with 4 seconds remaining to give themselves a 3 point lead.  Bradford’s heave at the end of the game would be just off, resulting in the heartbreaking 85-82 loss.

Junior Bernard Smith dominated the paint with 18 points and 15 rebounds, while frontcourt mate Austin Jackson led the Tigers in scoring with 19 points.  Bradford and Winchester-Jones rounded out the Grace scorers in double-figures with 14 and 11, respectively.  Caleb Anderson led the Tigers with 4 assists.

The Tigers finish their 2016-17 season Saturday afternoon versus the University of Valley Forge at 12:30 pm (CT) in the NCCAA DII 3rdplace game.