#2 Valley Forge put the Tigers away Friday night with a game finishing run of 24-7 and did what no Patriot team had done in the eight year tenure of Coach Gary Bailey at Grace — they beat the Tigers.
A little history lesson for those who may have just started following the Tigers this year….
These two schools have been the most successful programs in the NCCAA II over the last several years. Grace won four consecutive National Championships from 2009-2012. In three of those years they had to defeat an always tough Valley Forge team to win the championship game. Patriot Coach, John Mack, one of the most respected coaches in the NCCAA, was named NCCAA II National Coach of the Year in two of those years and Gary Bailey received the same honor in one of those years. The two teams have a great bond, despite their rivalry, and they have high respect for each other. But both teams brought question marks to this season and this regular season game. Both teams had graduated talented senior leadership in 2012 and both came into this game with rosters laden with underclassmen. The Patriots, always athletic and tough, physical defenders, were the better team on this night as they forced the Tigers into 22 turnovers and worked patiently for high percentage shots.
There were bright spots for the Tigers. After trailing at the half by three, 34-31, Grace charged out of the gate in the second half with a 7-0 run to take the lead 38-34, but the Patriots called a timeout and cranked up the pressure to come back and take a 47-44 lead with about 10 minutes to go. B J Van Loo hit a three to tie the game at 47 and the Tigers briefly took a 49-48 lead, their final lead of the night at about the 8 minute mark. From there it was all Valley Forge.
The Tigers again dominated the boards, 37-21, with Aaron Schutte and Cameron Cramer leading Grace with 8 each. Nick Mascorro led the Tiger scoring with 13. B J Van Loo added 12 points and Greg Salmon had 11. Aaron Schutte led the Tigers with 5 assists. But poor shooting, with a lot of missed shots in the paint, and turnovers doomed the Tigers. The Patriots had only 10 turnovers to the Tigers’ 22.
The Tigers will have little time to lick their wounds. They face Moody Bible Institute, an always tough regional opponent, on Saturday afternoon at 3 pm at the Aldrich Center.