Grace falls to #1 Ohio Christian in NCCAA Final Four, 79-64
Junior Cameron Cramer drives the baseline Friday night vs. Ohio Christian University.
Circleville, OH – The Grace Tigers came into tonight’s NCCAA Final Four game against Ohio Christian as an underdog, and on top of that they would have to come in and defeat the Trailblazers on their home court. Even as an underdog, with the way Grace has been playing as of late, any team in the NCCAA looked like they would have to play a very solid 40 minutes to defeat the relentless, revamped Grace squad.
The Trailblazers started off the game looking like they deserved the #1 seed, riding their hot shooting and the home atmosphere momentum to a build a 14-8 lead after the first five minutes of the game. After already entering the game shorthanded without starter Brad Rosenzweig, sophomore starter Paul TenHarmsel would go down early in the first half with a scary complication after taking a fall on a drive to the basket. TenHarmsel would not return to the game, as he was taken to the hospital as soon as possible after spending some time with the National Tournament training staff.* A 7-0 run from the Tigers would capture their first lead of the game at 15-14 just a minute and a half later, after a slick euro-step and basket by junior Jake Blauwkamp. However, Ohio Christian was able to regain the lead and extend it to 27-22 at the midpoint of the first half. A lay-up and long-range jump shot from Blauwkamp allowed Grace to cut the lead back to two, at 33-31 with five minutes to play in the half. Throughout the rest of the half, Ohio Christian’s pressure defense resulted in a few easy baskets off of Tiger turnovers, resulting in a 46-38 Trailblazer advantage at the half.
Four straight three-pointers and a lay-up from Ohio Christian and multiple missed open shots by the Tigers opened up a 60-41 Trailblazer lead just two and a half minutes into the second half. Grace was able to turn it up on the defensive end at this point, holding the Trailblazers to only four points throughout the next ten minutes and gaining all of the momentum after a three-point shot from senior Nick Van Loo in the corner would cut the OCU lead to eight points, 64-56. The very next possession the Tigers played great defense until the Trailblazers were forced to throw up a missed shot as the shot clock was dwindling. The long rebound unfortunately found its way into Ohio Christian’s hands, and NCCAA player of the year Wesley Russell was able to knock down a shot with the shot clock dwindling yet again to distinguish the Tiger’s spark of momentum. A couple more three-point shots made by the Trailblazers and empty possessions for the Tigers resulted in a 74-56 Trailblazer lead with 6:00 remaining. Grace was unable to make a final run in the minimal time remaining, resulting in a 79-64 victory for the tournament host Ohio Christian.
“It’s always frustrating to play without two starters and to play banged up. But we can’t make excuses – everyone had to be ready to play, and tonight was not our best game,” said Head Coach Gary Bailey after the game.
Stats were unavailable at the time of this article, but hopefully they will be available by Saturday.
Grace will play in the third place game against #3 seed Lancaster Bible College tomorrow at 3:00 PM. Live audio broadcast will be available through the Grace Tiger Network.
*Side note: TenHarmsel did return well from the hospital later on Friday night.