The Warriors rally came up just short as the team fell to the #4 seeded Grace Christian University Tigers 67-70 in the NCCAA DII National Championship Consolation Round. The loss ended a fantastic run for the Warriors who won the NCCAA II North Region Championship twelve days ago to punch their ticket to this national tournament.
Grace Christian came out firing on all cylinders with a 4-19 run to open the game. The Calvary faithful gave the team a boost, and a quick timeout from Coach Sanders with a few offensive adjustments helped the Warriors start to claw their way back. Calvary answered back with a big run as Braydon Unruh was 7/13 from beyond the arc and led the Warriors with 37 points on the day. With a huge three point shot from downtown as the buzzer sounded, the Warriors looked up and had closed the gap to only two points at the break 38-40.
The second half started and remained a back-and-forth contest for the first ten minutes. At that point, Calvary used an incredible rebounding effort to get some second chance points. This helped to create a little distance, and when Unruh hit a big three at the 9:31 mark, Calvary went up 57-50 with their largest lead of the game. Right after that three-point basket a media timeout occurred, and momentum switched quickly to the Tigers. Grace went on a nine-point run, taking advantage of several Calvary miscues and the game was headed to the wire. Calvary was up 67-66 at the 2:39 mark and were fighting with all they had for each possession. The difference in the game was Grace holding CU scoreless for the last 2:39 of the game to finish with a 67-70 win.
“I was proud of our team for never giving up,” Coach Sanders said. “Being down by as many as 15 points early in the game, we just kept fighting.”
Coach Sanders used the last timeout to draw a play up for a three pointer to tie the contest and send it into overtime. The senior duo of Braydon Unruh and Ques Harris executed the play perfectly, except the shot was just wide. “We have nothing to hang our heads about,” Coach Sanders said. “We executed the game plan and played our hearts out. It was a fantastic way to end the season.
Unruh led the Warriors with 37 points. Tobias Welling added 13 points and eight rebounds. The Warriors finish the season as the first Calvary team to ever win a NCCAA Regional Tournament. The Senior trio of Kirkman, Harris, and Unruh will be missed and are hard to replace. They have set the standard for leadership in the future as Calvary Basketball continues to take strong steps forward.