Grace College sophomore Logan Irwin tries to draw a foul on Point Loma senior A.J. Ussery on the last play of Saturday's NCCAA final. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union
Grace College sophomore Logan Irwin tries to draw a foul on Point Loma senior A.J. Ussery on the last play of Saturday's NCCAA final. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union
WINONA LAKE – Grace College's chances of a national championship were done in by Point Loma Nazarene University’s second chances.
In the NCCAA Division I men’s basketball final Saturday evening, fourth-seeded Point Loma scored put-back baskets at key times, as the Sea Lions beat the host Lancers 75-73 in front of a large and lively crowd at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center.
While the Sea Lions, an NCAA Division II team, only scored 10 second-chance points in the 40-minute game, Grace College coach Jim Kessler firmly believed those baskets were the difference.
“They got us on second-chance baskets,” said Kessler, who was denied his 700th career win. “We had to play a small lineup because of some foul trouble, and their bigs put it to us. They hit some big shots when they needed to late in the game.”
Point Loma, which finished the season with an 18-11 record and won its fourth NCCAA title, got 14 points from Hayden Lescault, 13 from both Marek Claussen and A.J. Ussery, 11 from Junior Morgan and 10 from Sam Okhotin.
Morgan, a 6-foot-6 junior, grabbed 10 rebounds, while Ussery, a 6-10 senior, pulled down seven boards.
The Sea Lions, who won three-straight national championships from 1985-87, outrebounded Grace, an NAIA Division II team, 31-23.
The Lancers, who finished the season with an 20-15 record, held a six-point advantage early in the first half.
They couldn’t maintain it and eventually trailed 38-35 at halftime.
Along with giving up the second-chance points, Kessler said the last part of the first half did his team in.
“The game was lost at the end of the first half,” said Kessler. “We couldn’t recover from that.”
After winning Thursday night’s semifinal game againt Roberts Wesleyan on a late three-pointer from sophomore Logan Irwin, the Lancers were in position for another thrilling win Saturday.
Grace trailed 73-68 with 43 seconds remaining and got a bucket from sophomore Caleb Featherston with 32 seconds left.
With 16 seconds left, Irwin missed a jumper, but senior Greg Miller was their for the tip-in, cutting the deficit to 73-72.
Point Loma converted a pair of free throws with 15 seconds left, bumping the lead to 75-72.
Irwin then made 1 of 2 free throws with nine seconds remaining to trim the deficit to two.
After forcing the Sea Lions into a turnover, Grace took possession with seven seconds left.
Following a number of timeouts, and with the MOCC crowd on its feet, Irwin fired up a highly-contested three-pointer that was off the mark.
The Lancers have played in the NCCAA final five times, finishing as the runner-up each time.
“We didn’t get what we wanted on the final play,” said Kessler. “We were trying to get the ball in Greg’s hands off of a double-screen. They switched on him, and we didn’t get a very good look.”
Miller led the Lancers with 22 points, while sophomore Brandon Vanderhegghen added 19 points and Featherston and junior Niko Read chipped in with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Playing in the NCCAA Championships marked the fourth consecutive season the Lancers have played in a national tournament, as they were in the NAIA Division II National Tournament in Branson, Mo., the past three years.
Grace advanced to the Final Four in Branson last year.
Saturday’s loss marked the final game for seniors Miller, Jared Treadway and Morgan Michalski.

GC    35    38    –    73
PL    38    37    –    75
Grace – Logan Irwin 3-11 1-4 7, Caleb Featherston 4-7 4-5 12, Brandon Vanderhegghen 6-12 4-6 19, Greg Miller 8-14 3-5 22, Jared Treadway 1-8 0-0 2, Drew Perrin 0-0 0-0 0, Niko Read 4-7 0-0 11, Eric Miller 0-2 0-0 0, Sam Daniels 0-1 0-0 0, Adrian Makolli 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-62 12-20 73.
Pt. Loma – Hayden Lescault 4-7 4-6 14, Marek Klassen 5-10 0-0 13, Judd Welfringer 1-2 4-4 6, Taylor Wetherell 3-6 0-1 8, A.J. Ussery 4-6 5-6 13, Mike Planeta 0-2 0-0 0, Trevor Peterson 0-0 0-0 0, Junior Morgan 4-8 3-3 11, Sam Okhotin 4-6 0-1 10. Totals 25-47 16-21 75.
Three-pointers – Grace 9 (Vanderhegghen 3, Miller 3, Read 3), Pt. Loma 9 (Klassen 3, Lescault 2, Wetherell 2, Okhotin 2); Rebounds – Grace 23 (Treadway 6), Pt. Loma 31 (Morgan 10); Turnovers – Grace 9, Pt. Loma 18; Fouls – Grace 18, Pt. Loma 20; Fouled out – Treadway; Records: Grace 20-15, Pt. Loma 18-11