Grace drops thriller vs No. 2 IWU

WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Grace men’s basketball team lost a heartbreaker Tuesday night to No. 2 Indiana Wesleyan, falling 87-85.

This is the second straight NAIA Top-10 team the Lancers lost by two points or less.

The Lancers (13-8, 5-4 Crossroads League) were propelled by Haden Deaton, who had a team-high 24 points.

IWU (18-3, 8-1 CL) jumped on the Lancers early and built a 9-0 lead just over two minutes into the game, forcing a Grace timeout.

Grace found its offensive rhythm coming out of the timeout and tied the game at 15. Deaton and Warner combined to score all 15 of the Lancers’ first points. Warner gave the Lancers their first lead of the game, 17-15, off a pair of free throws.

The Wildcats answered right back and hit three straight 3-point baskets to reestablish a 26-19 lead. The two teams continued to battle back and forth with the Wildcats maintaining the edge.

Grace slowly chipped away at the deficit and another 3-point basket from Deaton drew the Lancers within 40-38.

Deaton finished the half out in style, giving Grace the lead going into the intermission. The junior forward hit his fifth trifecta of the half just as time expired, giving Grace the 45-44 advantage.

At the half, Deaton led all players with 19 points and six rebounds. Warner added 15 points and five rebounds.

Grace shot 44 percent from the floor in the opening 20 minutes and were 8-of-10 from the charity stripe.

IWU opened the second half with the same intensity as the first and jumped out a six-point advantage 55-49.

Following two straight buckets for Warner, Jaret Sons hit his first trey of the game and gave Grace a 56-55 lead.

Matt Jennings capped a 7-0 Lancer run that ignited the Grace crowd and pushed the lead to 65-58.

The Wildcats refused to fade, however, and took a one-point lead with just over seven minutes to play.

The teams traded blows evenly over the final minutes. Sons and Braxton Linville each hit timely triples down the stretch to put Grace ahead.

The teams traded the lead back and forth as the time dwindled under a minute.

Warner hit a free throw that put the Lancers up 85-83 with 22 second left, but the upset bid was not meant to be. The Wildcats showed the poise of the No. 2 team as they calmly went down the court and sank the eventual game winning 3-pointer.

Grace had a chance to tie the game with seven seconds remaining, but the Lancers were whistled for a travel while under significant defensive pressure.

Warner finished with 20 points and seven rebounds. Myles Johnson filled the stat sheet with 6 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks.

Following the loss, the Lancers are tied for fourth place in the conference.

The Lancers will finish out a seven-game stretch of facing ranked teams Saturday at 3 p.m. when they play host to No. 8 Marian.