Three-point shooting woes sank the Huntington University men's basketball team against visiting Grace, 56-54, in the opening round of the Crossroads League tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 26.
The third-seeded Foresters connected on only 4 of 20 attempts from beyond the arc for 20 percent, lowlighted by a 2 for 13 showing for 15.4 percent in the first half. Coach Ty Platt's squad never led by more than three in the period, deadlocking six times with the sixth-seeded Lancers on the way to trailing by five at halftime, 27-22.
Grace expanded its advantage in the final frame, going up by as many as 10, 46-36, with 6:56 remaining. But the Foresters made a move to spoil the upset bid, with buckets by juniors Ryan Boester and Alec Peterson bracketing a pair of freebies and a basket by senior Shane Merryman to bring the hosts to within two, 46-44, at the 2:48 mark.
Grace's Jared Treadway and senior TJ Short exchanged buckets before Greg Miller netted a triple for the visitors to put them up by five, 51-46, with 1:20 to go. After a foul was called on the Lancers' Niko Read, Huntington cut into the margin with a pair of free throws by Peterson, then narrowed it even further when freshman Derek Hinen made a steal on Read, dished to Tyler Ault in the paint and the junior scored to make things 51-50 with 38 ticks left.
A freebie by Logan Irwin and two by Treadway put Grace up by four, but a Hinen trey with six seconds remaining made it a one-point game, 54-53. Read took away any suspense, however, when he drained a pair of free throws to give the Lancers a three-point cushion and Irwin sent Hinen to the line to prevent further heroics, sealing the win.
The Foresters, 24-7, will now wait to see if they receive an at-large bid to the NAIA National Championships, slated for March 12-18 in Branson, MO.
Merryman and Hinen paced Huntington with 15 points apiece. Peterson added 10 points and 12 rebounds for the double-double, which helped give the Foresters a 32-31 edge on the glass.
Huntington finished shooting 19 for 49 for 38.8 percent and 12 for 18 at the line for 66.7 percent.
Irwin, the son of Rob Irwin, head coach of the Huntington North High School boys' varsity basketball team, produced 15 points and seven assists to lead Grace, 17-13. Miller and former Huntington Eagle Caleb Featherston each added 11 points as the Lancers converted 22 of 48 field goals for 45.8 percent and 8 of 14 freebies for 57.1 percent.