Going into Saturday’s regional final, the Grace Lady Tigers basketball team found themselves in a “good news – bad news” situation. The good news was that they had played two great games to advance to the finals for the first time in four years. The bad news is they had to face the powerhouse Crusaders of Maranatha Baptist Bible College. The Crusaders were also playing at home and had received an opening round bye, as if they needed any other advantages beyond their exceptional depth of talent at all positions and a respected coaching staff that surely would not allow their team to take the #3 seed Tigers lightly.
The difference in energy levels of the two teams was evident early as Maranatha scored the first 20 points of the contest before Kerie Rudd broke the ice with a nice 3-pointer from the wing. The Tigers did find their rhythm for one stretch in the first half, getting the defecit down to a reasonable 12 points. A late rally by the Crusdaders increased the margin back to 20 at the half.
The second half didn’t bring much different as the host team continued their dominant shooting and the Tigers couldn’t find the range and struggled to find open shots against the quick Maranatha squad. Grace’s All-American center, Jessica Sikorski, fouled out with over 10 minutes remaining in the game which, unfortunately, made a comeback to a reasonable score difficult to achieve. The final score was 81-39.
“We knew we had to play a nearly perfect game to have a chance today and it just wasn’t there”, Coach Renzema said after the game. “Maranatha is going to have a lot of say on who wins the national championship this year. They are a very fine team with good players and depth at every position.”
“I am proud of how we played this weekend overall. To play three games in three days with only seven girls is a real challenge. We did some things this weekend that we can build upon next week at nationals.”
The Lady Tigers will hit the road to Joplin, Missouri for the ACCA national tournament with games being played on March 1-3.