GRAND RAPIDS — Grace Bible standout Allen Durham proved once again why most coaches fear facing him and the Tigers.
The former Wyoming Park star scored 28 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to help his team knock off Ohio Christian University (Circleville, Ohio) 79-65 Saturday.
“It’s hard to guard Allen Durham,” said Ohio Christian coach Curtis Christopher, whose team was ranked No. 2 in the nation earlier this season. “You know he’s going to get his buckets.
“We tried to slow it down a little bit in the first half. Had we taken care of the ball, I was hoping to go into halftime down by about four points. You can’t go into halftime down by 12 to a team like this.”
It was the fourth consecutive win for the Tigers and their 52nd win in the National Christian College Athletic Association Division II. Ranked No. 1 in the nation, Grace Bible is seeking its third straight national championship.
Ohio Christian (17-7) made the first two buckets of the game, but never lead again after a 4-4 tie.
The Tigers took a 26-12 lead with about six minutes left in the first half and cruised to a 36-24 halftime margin.
“We thought they would try to stall, make every possession count and keep the score low,” said Grace Bible coach Gary Bailey, whose Tigers have been ranked No. 1 in the nation since Jan. 2009. “We had a great week of practice and felt like we were a little stronger inside than they were. (Ryan) Krombeen (Calvin Christian), Dan Dame (Wayland), Ryan Dame (Wayland) and Durham work so well together.
“And we look to Durham and go to him.”
The Trailblazers came all the way back to a three-point deficit, 49-46, with about 12 minutes left in the game.
Tirrell Cumberland (19 points) and Timothy Baker (18) sparked OCU’s comeback.
Two strong inside baskets by Durham extended the lead again, which hovered around 10 points until the 3-minute mark.
“We played good, had some dry spurts and were able to overcome them,” said Durham, Grace Bible’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder. “They gave us a good run, but we played good and got the win.
“We still have a lot of things we have to fix. When we get down to the tournament, we’re at a whole new level.”
A three-point bucket and a couple free throws by Ohio Christian cut the lead again to 70-65, but the Tigers continued to pound the ball inside.
“I don’t think we’re playing as well as we did early in the season,” said Bailey, whose team improved to 18-7 overall. “Every year, we seem to have a little lull around the holidays. But we’ll be ready by tournament time.
“There are some really good teams out there and I don’t think we can play like we’re playing now. We have to get a lot better.”
Matt Kurtz (Lowell) scored 14 points for the Tigers, while Cory Jamieson (Wayland) added 11.
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