Grace junior Austin Kaiser is congratulated by teammate Marcus Moore after making a key steal near the end of regulation. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union
Grace junior Austin Kaiser is congratulated by teammate Marcus Moore after making a key steal near the end of regulation. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union
POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. - Veteran Grace College men's basketball coach Jim Kessler was counting on a strong performance from his perimeter players.

He got it.

Led by seniors Marcus Moore and Kyle Johnson and juniors Austin Kaiser and Michael Wienhorst, the Lancers upset third-seeded Morningside (Iowa) 90-81 in overtime Friday night in the second round of the 17th annual NAIA Division II National Tournament.

The tournament is being played at College of the Ozarks, located just outside of Branson, Mo., and the Lancers are in the 32-team, single-elimination tournament for the first time since 1993 when they bowed out in the first round.

"I thought our guards, our perimeter players, were going to have to play well for us to win this game, and they did," said Kessler, whose team improved to 26-9 on the season and advanced to the Elite Eight. "This is a group of guys that believes in themselves and what we're doing. I thought we could take advantage of our quickness and we did that."

Moore led Grace with a game-high 25 points, while Johnson backed up his 18-point, seven-rebound performance Thursday with 23 points and seven boards against the Mustangs Friday.

Johnson scored 15 points in the first half and barely missed a buzzer-beater that would have given the Lancers the win in regulation.

After missing a runner in the lane 21 seconds to play in regulation, Kaiser redeemed himself and made a quick steal with just under 19 seconds remaining. Grace called a time out and set up a play, the same play that produced a buzzer-beater by Johnson at rival Huntington during the regular season.

The shot looked a lot like former Duke standout Christian Laettner's turn-around jumper against Kentucky in 1992, only Johnson's rolled around the rim and didn't fall Friday.

"Man, that was in," Johnson said of his shot. "I let it go, and I just watched it. It looked good to me. It hit every part of the rim before it came out. But give credit to Austin, he was the man in overtime, and that three-point play by David Swanson, that was huge. This was a team effort."

Kaiser, a Wawasee High School graduate and former Times-Union Area Player of the Year, finished the game with 10 points, eight of them coming in overtime. Kaiser's final two points, which was the Lancers' last field goal of the game, gave Grace an 83-76 lead with 48 seconds to play in overtime.

The Lancers hit 7 of 10 free throws in the final 36 seconds of the extra session to pull away for the nine-point win.

"This feels awesome," said Kaiser. "I've always wanted to be a part of something like this. I couldn't ask for a better group of guys to share this with."

Said Moore of Kaiser, "Austin stepped up big time. He missed that shot, but he didn't hang his head, he came right back and got a big-time steal. We joke around and call him ordered-chaos. He's like our quarterback. We know he's going to get sacked a few times, but he's going to come back and throw and 80-yard touchdown when you need him to. And he did that tonight."

The three-point play by Swanson that Johnson was talking about came with 2:07 to play in the five-minute overtime. Swanson went up for a shot in the lane, was fouled hard, and still got the ball to drop through the hoop. He added the free throw, giving the Lancers a 79-76 advantage.

Seconds later, Wienhorst made a steal and fed Kaiser for a layup to give Grace a five-point lead.

Wienhorst finished the game with eight points, all of which came in the first half. Wienhorst's performance was more than points, he did a lot of things that won't show up in a box score.

"Michael does a tremendous job defensively," said Moore, a very-well spoken player who sounded more like a coach during the post-game interview. "We're not the biggest guys, I think we were outmuscled at every position tonight, but Michael is our meat-and-potatoes guy. He just gets the job done."

Six-foot-10 senior Eric Gaff, coming off a 25-point, 10-rebound effort against 14th-seeded Embry-Riddle Thursday, chipped in with 12 points and six boards against Morningside.

"Last night it was about inside play, Eric had a heck of a game," said Kessler. "Tonight it was about our perimeter players. I knew our guards would have to step up and they did. These kids don't give up."

Swanson added seven points and seven rebounds, while Scott Moore finished with five points and seven assists.

Morningside, which opened the regular season with 23-straight wins and spent seven weeks as the No. 1 team in the country, finished its season with a record of 29-4.

Jack Rother led the Mustangs with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Thomas Pargett added 16 points and five boards and Seth Atkins chipped in with 14 points and eight boards.

Grace, which ended the first half on a 17-5 run, held a 45-37 lead at halftime. The teams were knotted at 72 at the end of regulation.

In the NAIA Division II National Tournament, only 16 teams are given seeds. Of the eight remaining teams, Grace is the only unseeded team.

The Lancers will be in action again Saturday at 8 p.m. CT (9 p.m. Warsaw time) against either No. 6 Evangel or No. 11 Oregon-Tech.

In Saturday's first game at 1 p.m., ninth-seeded Bethel (26-9) will play top-seeded Bellvue (31-3). At approximately 3 p.m., No. 13 Northwood (27-7) will square off against No. 5 Northwestern (29-4). And at approximately 6 p.m. Saturday, No. 2 seed MidAmerica Nazarene (30-4) will battle 10th-seeded College of the Ozarks.

There will be no games Sunday. The Final Four round will be played Monday, and the championship game is scheduled for Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.


G 45 27 18 - 90

M 37 35 9 - 81

Grace - Kyle Johnson 8 3-4 23, Michael Wienhorst 3 2-4 8, Eric Gaff 6 0-2 12, Scott Moore 2 0-0 5, Marcus Moore 7 8-8 25, Austin Kaiser 5 0-1 10, Jacob Peatie 0 0-0 0, David Henry 0 0-0 0, Tyler Winkleman 0 0-0 0, David Swanson 3 1-1 7. Totals 34 14-20 90.

Morningside - Thomas Pargett 7 0-0 16, Matt Johnson 2 2-2 6, Seth Atkins 4 6-7 14, Jack Rother 7 2-3 17, David Price 2 0-1 4, Shane Michael 2 0-0 6, Brady Helmink 2 1-1 6, Greg Nelson 1 0-0 3, Mitch Carstens 1 0-0 2, Nick Thompson 3 0-1 7, Lee Kubik 0 0-0 0. Totals 31 11-15 81.

3-point goals - Grace 8 (Johnson 4, M. Moore 3, S. Moore), Morningside 8 (Pargett 2, Michael 2, Rother, Helmink, Nelson, Thompson). Rebounds - Grace 45 (Johnson 7, Swanson 7), Morningside 42 (Rother 11). Turnovers - Grace 13, Morningside 14. Fouls- Grace 16, Morningside 20. Fouled out - Rother. Records - Grace 26-9, Morningside 29-4.