Fifth-seeded Graceland University overcame a halftime deficit on Thursday night against the fourth-seeded Raven Men's Basketball team to upset the Ravens in the Heart Postseason Quarterfinals.
Graceland (20-11) outscored Benedictine (21-10) 13-2 over the first four minutes of the second half, which proved to be just enough of a spark to allow the Yellowjackets to outlast the Ravens down the stretch as Benedictine fell 62-60.
After pulling within a point for the second time over the final 16 seconds, Benedictine got a jump ball on an inbounds by Graceland but the possesion remained with the Yellowjackets. Benedictine fouled with four seconds remaining and Graceland would hit one of two. With no times outs remaining, the Ravens had one last shot to win the game but the three-quarter court attempt by Jake Schannuth missed allowing Graceland to escape with the win.
Thursday night marked the third meeting of the season between the two schools this season. Benedictine won those two meetings by a combined seven points, so the stage was set for a tightly-contested Quarterfinal game.
Playing through three ties, Benedictine found itself trailing early. Adam Kutney converted an old-fashion 3-point play with just under 14 minutes left in the first half to give Benedictine its first lead of the game. From there, the Ravens used a 15-5 run that spanned the next four minutes and allowed Benedictine to pull ahead by 12 points.
That proved to be the Ravens largest lead of the half as the Yellowjackets countered with a 15-4 run of their own to close Benedictine's lead to one point, 30-29, at the half.
Sparked by three straigh 3-pointers from RJ Williams, the Yellowjackets not only erased their halftime deficit but were able to pull ahead of the Ravens by 10 points inside the first five minutes of the second half.
Graceland wasn't able to pull away, leading by as much as 11 points before Benedictine started to work their way back into the game.
While the Yellowjackets converted seven 3-pointers in the second half after Benedictine limited them to three in the first half, the Ravens were able to counter by getting the ball into the paint. Benedictine outscored Graceland 16-2 in the paint in the second half while also outscoring the Yellowjackets a the free throw line. Benedictine connected on 7 of 9 at the free throw line while Graceland went 4 of 7. The combination of points in the paint and converting at the free throw line set up the tight finish.
Graceland advances to the Heart Semifinals on Saturday night as they earn a trip to Des Moines to take on Heart second-seed and No. 2 William Penn University. Benedictine will now play the waiting game to see if their season will continue. The NAIA will release the final pre-national tournament poll on March 8 with the selection show for the Buffalo Funds-NAIA Div. I Men's Basketball National Championship taking place at 8 p.m. the same day.
Depending on how the tournament finishes out, Benedictine has a chance to earn an at-large berth into the NAIA Tournament based off their March 8 ranking or by earning what is known as the host berth since the Heart serves as the official host of the NAIA Tournament.