WATERTOWN, WI – The Maranatha Crusaders proved they can compete with anyone in the Midwest Region, defeating the #4-ranked team in the NCCAA DII, Grace Bible College, 86-79, on Saturday afternoon.
The Crusaders used a perfect blueprint against a team that had several players listed at 6-7 or greater, taking excellent shot selection, while forcing the Tigers into foul trouble later in the game.
In the first half, Maranatha’s aggressive play led to a 5-2 lead in the opening minutes of the game, thanks to a three by junior center Brett Cashner (Urbana, IL), and freshman guard David Wenthold (Geneseo, IL) sank a three after Grace had inched back into the game, for a 15-10 advantage.
Maranatha owned a seven-point halfway through the period, but five minutes, and a 14-point swing later, the Tigers turned the tables with a three by Nick Mascorro, who had 14 points in the game.
Fifteen seconds later, freshman Brady Moses (Lodi, WI) responded with a triple of his own. The Crusaders weathered Grace’s three-point barrage, and came back to tie the game at 40 apiece, on a pair of free throws by freshman Jonathan Wenthold (Geneseo, IL).
Grace entered halftime with a 42-40 lead, but shortly out of the break, freshman center Zach Terpstra (Baron, WI) hit key layups, and a Brady three boosted Maranatha’s lead back up to eight, with 16 minutes to play.
Maranatha kept their foot on the pedal, with strong play on defense, and a much improved, 53% shooting performance from the field. What ultimately won the game though was Maranatha’s ability to make clutch shots from the line, under pressure.
Not only did the Crusaders shoot nearly 88% in the second half, but the team went to the line 16 times, compared to Grace’s five attempts.
Before the home team came away with their eighth win of the season, they would have to tame a fierce Tiger’s rally that pushed the visitors to within one point, at three minutes left in the game.
Grace’s Paul TenHarmsel drove to the basket for just a 71-70 deficit, but on the next possession, David Wenthold came right back with a smooth three-point shot to keep Maranatha in front, at 74-70.
Grace’s Jarod Bradford, hit a big three, once again cutting the lead back to two, with a minute and a half to play, but the free throw line would soon become the Crusaders’ friend, as Terpstra, in unflinching fashion, converted both shots under pressure, for an 80-76 lead.
Two of Grace’s post players would foul out in the closing minutes, and the Crusaders wisely went to the line for the rest of play, making all six attempts, four from Brady Moses.
Maranatha improves to 8-13 on the season, and had Moses finished with his 12th game with at least 20 points, as the guard has only scored single digits once, against Roosevelt, on December 2.
Terpstra continued his strong play, posting 16 points, and five rebounds while David Wenthold, Cashner and Clayton Morrison (Jefferson, WI) each posted 10 points apiece.
Despite a height advantage by Grace, Maranatha was dead even on rebounds (36), while limiting their turnovers to nine total.
The Crusaders resume play on Tuesday, February 18, at 7:00 p.m. against Illinois Institute of Technology, in Chicago, IL.