The road to the championship is an amazing feat in and of itself.
We think of NCAA’s March Madness, but honestly, the NAIA’s championship is even more intense.
With 32 regular season and exhibition games and 19 Heart of America Athletic Conference (Heart) games, which does not include the post-season tournament, Graceland’s basketball season is very long.
The NAIA’s version is truly nuts: 32 teams, seven days and one shared hotel. It is a virtual assembly line of college basketball, and for the true hoops fanatic it is basketball paradise. 500 players and coaches jammed into one place, for one very special week.”
-David Waldstein, NY Times (3.17.18)
The Tournament Week
Monday March 12, 2018: Champions of Character
The team performed a routine of layups, spoke of core values, engaged in a Q&A and then signed autographs at this community service event at Crossroads Academy Charter School.
Tuesday March 13, 2018: Champions Banquet
Thirty-two teams watched highlight videos, honored the Champions of Character recipients – including Graceland senior Jeremy Deemer #24 from Lamoni – and heard the two Kansas City mayors and NAIA president speak.
Wednesday March 14, 2018: The Parade of Champions
A trademark of the tournament, all the players, coaches, officials, and the tournament committee marched into the stadium Olympic style and packed themselves in, standing shoulder to shoulder.
Thursday March 15, 2018: Texas Wesleyan University Game 1 70-61
The Yellowjackets earned their first-ever NAIA National Tournament win in their debut game on the national tournament stage against the defending national champions. They were just getting started.
Friday March 16, 2018: Langston University Game 2 67-59
Getting off to a slow start in the first half, the Yellowjackets put forth a big effort against a tough defensive team. LT Davis #2 scored 29 points, leading Graceland to the win. The first three days included 24 games with only 10-minute breaks between, which left no practice time for teams.
Saturday March 17, 2018: University of Montana Western QUARTERFINALS 86-72
Three Graceland University players scored more than 20 points each to lead the Yellowjackets to the win, earning Graceland a spot in the Fab Four. The first three days included 24 games with only 10-minute breaks between, which left no practice time for teams.
Sunday March 18, 2018: Special Olympics Clinic
The team took part in a community service event for the Fab Four.
“The clinic was a great experience. To give back to the community is an awesome thing to do. The project finned my Sunday with happiness,” -Alex Pena
Monday March 19, 2018: Louisiana State University-Shreveport SEMIFINALS 87-80
Gracelanders dubbed the Municipal Auditorium “Closson South” and brought down busloads of Lamoni students to create a home-court advantage. LSUS had been to the national tournament 14 times and was ready to win, but Graceland believed. In the locker room, Coach Doty said, “We’re not done yet!” and they come out at halftime a changed team.
Tuesday March 20, 2018: Louisiana State University-Alexandria FINALS 83-80
The final game was one for the movies. The tie-breaking, buzzer-beater, overtime, 3-point shot for the win will be repeated in history’s best shots, and Graceland University has newly found basketball fame. Graceland won against LSU-Alexandria with a record-breaking crown of 6,377 fans.
Graceland finished its season winning its last 11 straight games, 12 of its last 13 and the Yellowjackets were 19-2 from Jan. 17 through the end of
29-10 SEASON RECORD
5th win *CHAMPIONSHIP POSTSEASON GAME
1st win *CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS
1st team IN THE CONFERENCE TO WIN *CHAMPIONSHIP and IN THE STATE TO WIN *CHAMPIONSHIP
*2018 NAIA Division I National Championship