By STEVE KOEHLER | The Grand Rapids Press
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — On paper, it looked as if the Grace Bible-Dallas Christian semifinal contest in the National Christian College Athletic Association national tournament would be no contest at all.
Two-time defending champion Grace, at 29-7 and with a roster of 15 player, versus Dallas, saddled with a 13-22 mark and a roster of just seven players.
But Grace Bible needed a furious second-half comeback to advance to Saturday’s championship game with a 69-67 overtime win Friday night.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” said Allen Durham, who scored 24 points, including 19 in the second half, along with grabbing 10 rebounds, to lead Grace to its third consecutive championship game and fourth in the past six years.
Gary Bailey, the Tigers coach all six of those years, said his team’s first half “was the worse first half we played all season.”
Led by Antoine Warren, who scored the last eight points of the first half, Dallas Christian went into the locker room with a 37-24 lead, its biggest of the first half.
Meanwhile, Durham, who averages 19.8 points and 10.3 rebounds a game, was held to just five points in the first half.
Dallas got off to a slow start and was scoreless for the first 3:15 of the game until a free throw by Warren broke the ice. But after Grace took a 10-6 at the 14:33 mark, Dallas went on a 20-8 run to lead 26-18 with 6:20 left.
A basket by Durham with 1:45 left in the first half got Grace within 29-24, but Warren hit back-to-back 3 pointers in a 50-second span, then made two three throws to give Dallas its 37-24 lead.
In the second half, Grace turned up the defense and started to see its offense slowly start to click.
The Tigers made a few defensive adjustments at halftime, including putting a taller player on Warren, who was held to seven points in the second half.
“We made the defensive adjustments because I thought the offense would come around,” Bailey said.
It did. After falling behind by 13, Grace Bible went on a 21-8 run capped with three consecutive 3-pointers by three players to tie the game at 56 with 3:13 left.
After Dallas Christian took a 61-57 lead, Matt Kutz hit a 3 and John Oostema scored a basket for a 63-61 lead. Two free throws by Warren with 21 seconds left sent the game into overtime.
In the extra period, Durham scored four of his team’s six points to seal the win.
“I knew I had to step it up in the second half,” Durham said. “You don’t win championships with the way I played. I am so thankful to be playing for a third title. Not to may players can say that.”