WINONA LAKE – Grace forward Cade Gibbs had not been shooting well entering the Lancers' matchup with Saint Francis on Monday. That didn't stop the redshirt freshman from firing away with the game on the line.
Gibbs had made just two of his previous nine attempts from 3-point range when he caught the ball in the corner with seconds remaining and his team trailing by two. Showing off a short memory, he buried a 3 with a half a second left to send the Lancers to a 72-71 over the 20th-ranked Cougars at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center. Gibbs had 24 points and eight rebounds.
“I told the guys, Cade made that shot ... months ago,” coach Scott Moore said. “Out of all the guys we got, he's in the gym constantly, shooting, shooting, shooting. That moment was not big for him. He's been in that moment.”
It was a big moment for the Lancers, a young team coming off an upset win over NAIA No. 1 Indiana Wesleyan. Grace (10-4, 3-2 Crossroads League), which led by as many as 13 in the second half, trailed 70-69 with 13 seconds left after Cougars guard Antwaan Cushingberry passed ahead to Jeffrey Reynolds for a dunk.
After Cushingberry split a pair of free throws to push the Saint Francis lead to two, Grace had one more shot. The play was for the ball to go inside and it was lobbed down to former Blackhawk Christian star Frankie Davidson. As he reached to catch it, the ball hit the rim and caromed away. Davidson grabbed it, saw Gibbs and tossed it to him for the winning shot.
“I got the ball, (Gibbs) was open in the corner, I passed it to him and he hit it,” said Davidson, who had eight points, eight rebounds and five assists. “It was a big shot for him.”
The Lancers closed the first half on a 9-0 run to lead 43-36 at the break and pushed the margin to 55-42 when Davidson scored in the paint with 15:11 left.
After Saint Francis (15-3, 2-3) called a timeout, the Cougars ripped off an 18-5 run over the next eight minutes. Carroll graduate Dan McKeeman drained a jumper to knot the score at 60 with 7 minutes to play.
Grace went up 69-63 when Gibbs hit a 3 with 2:29 left, his first 3-pointer in three games. On each of the next two possessions, Carroll graduate David Ejah drove to the basket, scored and was fouled. He split the extra free throws to bring Saint Francis within one at 69-68. After a Grace miss, Ejah grabbed the rebound and tossed an outlet pass ahead to Cushingberry prior to Reynolds' go-ahead dunk.
Ejah had 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists, and Reynolds had 24 points and 12 rebounds. Davidson's former Blackhawk teammate, Jalan Mull, had four points and two rebounds for Saint Francis.
After a 6-4 start, the Lancers have won four in a row, including two straight against ranked opponents.
“We have a whole new team from last year,” Moore said. “We got a lot of freshmen, a lot of sophomores and it takes time. You've gotta be in these games and learn how to win basketball games.”