Grace fans may have been wondering which Tiger team would show up in tonight’s regional tournament opener against Lincoln Christian after the way they finished the regular season. Two losses to end the season is not the way Coach Bailey wanted to head into tournament play but three days of solid practice effort boosted the coaching staff’s confidence. “I was pleased with how we practiced this week,” said Bailey, “and I was confident we would come out with maximum effort tonight. The guys did not disappoint.”
The Tigers relentlessly pounded the ball into the post on offense, played excellent interior defense, pushed the ball in transition, dominated the rebound department with a 54-29 margin, and won the turnover battle….fulfilling everything on the coaches wish list for the game. The Tigers built a lead of as many as 15 in the first half as Bailey went deep into his bench early. Grace shot 56% from the field in the second half and won pulling away.
Zach Schutte lead all scorers with 23 and contributed 8 rebounds. B J VanLoo also had 8 rebounds to go with his 9 points and a season high 5 blocked shots. Greg Salmon led the team in assists with 7 and tied Cameron Cramer for the game high in rebounds with 9. Cramer also had 4 assists. Bailey got solid play from his bench as they outscored the Red Lion bench, 35-23. Bailey played every player 5 or more minutes.
Seniors Aaron Schutte and Greg Salmon raised the crowd excitement level with a couple of two handed dunks, Schutte’s on a follow up to Nick Mascorro’s missed fast break layup attempt and Salmon’s on a steal and breakaway dribble the length of the floor. Then came Travis Rader’s high flying one handed jam over a Lincoln defender off a fast break assist from Michael Miller, bringing back memories for Tiger fans of a similar Rader dunk against Kuyper College in January that landed on ESPN’s Top Ten Plays. Many in the crowd thought this one was even better. You can watch all three dunks in the video below.
The Tigers will play Kuyper College for the third time this season on Friday night at 8 pm. The winner will face the victor of the 6 pm game between Northland International University and Maranatha Baptist Bible College in the regional championship game on Saturday at 3 pm.