On Thursday (2/23), the Tigers faced off against 4th-seed Welch College. A previous match-up this season ended as a loss for the Tigers, at a time when the squad was low on numbers due to injuries. This time, the group would look to come out and show they deserve to be in the semis. This game would remain back & forth all game. The led would remain within single digits the whole game and would really come down to how well Grace controlled the boards. Every player got in and contributed to the rebounds. That’s uncommon, most of the squad recorded multiple boards in the game. This was truly a driving factor to Grace’s win 74-69 over Welch to advance to the semi-finals vs Simmons (KY).
Coach K commented: “I thought we came out with great energy today, which is needed at this time of year. We were able to control the boards throughout the game, which was great, because we didn’t shoot exceptionally well. Our bench gave us awesome minutes today, especially in the second half. We had a group of 4 subs in the game, and held Welch to 2 points in almost 6 minutes, which allowed us to lengthen our lead.
We never like to make it easy to end a game, but I was proud that we pulled it out.”
On Friday (2/24), Your 5th-seed Tigers would match up against the 1st-seed Simmons College of Kentucky Falcons. A previous match-up was only decided by 6pts in favor of the Tigers. So you already knew this was going to be a great game. Most of the game felt like it was shot for shot or mirroring hot streaks. If Grace went on a 6-0 run, a couple of mins later Simmons would get a similar run and we’d be set even. Going into the halftime break, the Tigers would be up by 4pts, In the second half, we had the same outcome. For 15 minutes it was back-and-forth mirroring basketball. It was not until the final minutes of the game that Grace struggled to convert on possessions and Simmons would convert and take the lead. Simmons was able to control the boards in those final minutes to ensure no second chance for the Tigers. Despite trailing in the final minutes, Grace continued to keep it close and had the ball in the final 10secs to be able to take the final shot but would not be successful in the 3pt attempt.
Our Tigers battled hard and led most of the game to show they belonged and could compete with a top team in the country. We’re proud of them for that. The Tigers are a young pack and will be hungry to build off the successes this season, next winter.
Coach K added: “”I am so proud of how we battled today. We played with so much toughness and effort. I thought we executed our game plan really well, especially defensively. We just had a few too many empty possessions in the second half, not valuing the ball enough. In our last set with about 10 seconds left, we got what we wanted, with Kellum having a lane to take the lead, but their bigs made great plays, blocking him from behind. I don’t feel like we lost this game, I just feel like Simmons made one more big play than we did.
I’m so thankful for our seniors and what they did for us this year. Having Kellum decide to use his 5th year was huge for our team. He’s our vocal leader, and he does everything he can to help our program succeed. To me, he’s a sure fire 1st year Hall of Famer at Grace, and deservedly so. Cole has fought through so much adversity health-wise in his college years. The way last year ended for him, he easily could’ve hung up his sneakers, but he chose to fight through a terrible foot injury, and make a big impact for our team this year. He was fighting through pain the entire year, but he never used it as an excuse. He wanted what was best for the team at all times, and we will miss his tenacity next year without question.”