On March 5, the Graceland men’s basketball team made history in a packed Closson Center, claiming their first Heart of America Athletic Conference Tournament crown with a 95-68 victory over Peru State College. In front of a standing room only crowd, Graceland not only hosted their first Heart Conference Title game, but also earned an automatic berth into the 81st Annual NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship — their first NAIA National Championship appearance in program history.
The Yellowjackets knocked off the 2017 reigning national champions, Texas Wesleyan University, in their opening-round matchup March 15 at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City — the team’s first NAIA tournament win in their national debut.
Graceland won five straight games in six days to claim the championship title March 20, defeating Louisiana State University–Alexandria in overtime with a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Tremendous support was felt with record-breaking tournament attendance, and the Graceland community came Together across the world on social media.
Graceland University men’s basketball rolled past Evangel University with a 90-51 win.
Graceland went 34 for 72 from the floor (47.2 percent), including sinking 12 of 30 from beyond the arc (40 percent). Evangel connected on 18 of 52 (34.6 percent) and was limited to 5 of 27 from three-point range (18.5 percent). The Yellowjackets calculated 22-second-chance points and 16 points off Crusader turnovers. GU held a +20 rebounding margin (50-30), tabbing 17 offensive rebounds.
Graceland’s offense was propelled by four student-athletes in double-figures. Jeremy Deemer and Will Nelson recorded 19 points each. LT Davis complimented the duo with 16 points, as Dalton Payton came off the bench to add 10 points. Justin Harley grabbed 12 rebounds, as Deemer completed a double-double with 11 rebounds. Nelson pulled down nine rebounds, while Payton handed out nine assists.
Heart Conference Tournament – Quarterfinals
February 28, 2018
vs Missouri Valley College
Graceland University men’s basketball used balanced scoring in the Yellowjackets 89-57 victory over Missouri Valley College.
Graceland went 33 for 71 in the game (46.5 percent), including sinking 13 of 31 from beyond the arc (41.9 percent). Missouri Valley went 17 of 64 (26.6 percent) from the field and was limited to just 22.2 percent from the field and was limited to just 22.2 percent from three-point range (6-27). GU dominated the glass, out rebounding MVC 52-39. The Yellowjackets calculated 25 second-chance points, handed out 24 assists.
Six players scored in double-figures for the Yellowjackets in the victory. Dalton Payton went four-for-seven from beyond the arc, scoring 17 points. Jeremy Deemer recorded his 10th double-double of the year with 16 point and 12 rebounds. LT Davis recorded 14 points, while Jordan Dembley came off the bench to contribute 13 points. Justin Harley and Will Nelson added 12 and 10 points, respectively. Payton and Davis handed out six assists each, while Harley tabbed four blocks.
Heart Conference Tournament – Semifinals
March 2, 2018
vs Central Methodist University (7)
Third-seeded and national ranked No. 23 Graceland University defeated two-seeded and nationally ranked No. 7 Central Methodist 62-51 on the road.
Graceland connected on 18 of 60 (30 percent) from the field, while Central Methodist went 15 of 62 (24.2 percent). the Yellowjackets shot 95.2 percent from the charity stripe (20-21) and dominated the glass over the Eagles at 54-37. GU counted 17 offensive rebounds in the game.
Jeremy Deemer posted his 11th double-double of the year, leading the Yellowjackets with 18 points and a dominating, career high, 23 rebounds LT Davis contributed 17 points, while Dalton Payton counted 13 points. Justin Harley pulled down eight rebounds, as Payton dished out three assists.
Heart Conference Tournament – Championship
March 5, 2018
vs Peru State College
Graceland University men’s basketball team made history claiming their first-ever Heart of America Athletic Conference Tournament crown with a 95-68 victory over Peru State College and securing an automatic berth into the 81st annual NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship.
Graceland shot 51.3 percent in the game (40-78), holding Peru State to jut 35.6 percent (21-59). The Yellowjackets capitalized on 25-second-chance pints. GU dominated the boards at 48-33, counting 17 on the offensive glass.
Graceland’s offense was highlighted by three players scoring 20+ points on the night. Jeremy Deemer connected on 12-of-15 shots to score 24 points. Deemer tacked on 12 rebounds to post his 12th double-double of the season. Will Nelson contribute 22 points with 12 rebounds as well, as LT Davis added 20 points. Justin Harley matched Deemer and Nelson with 12 boards of his own, recording five assists.
NAIA National Championship – First Round
March 15, 2018
vs Texas Wesleyan University (15)
Graceland University’s men’s basketball team knocked off the reigning national champions, Texas Wesleyan University, 70-61, in the first round. The Yellowjackets earned their first-ever NAIA National Tournament win in their debut game on the national stage.
Texas Wesleyan shot 38.6 percent in the game (22-for-57), while Graceland hit 37.5 percent of its shots from the floor (22-of-64). GU dominated the glass – out rebounding TWU, 47-34 – and pulling down 20 offensive rebounds that led to 26 second chance points, the most of any team so far at the national championship. Texas Wesleyan is the first team so fair in the national tournament to never hold a lead in its game.
Jeremy Deemer led four Graceland players in double figures, completing his 13th double-double of the season with 17 points and 11 boards. LT Davis complimented Deemer with 16 points, Harley got his hands on nine boards, while Will Nelson added 12 points and eight rebounds. Harley also added 11 points and five assists for the Yellowjackets.
NAIA National Championship – Second Round
March 16, 2018
vs Langston University
LT Davis scored 29 points to lead Graceland University to a 67-59 win over Langston (Okla.) in the second round.
Graceland shot 39 percent (23-for-59) in the game, while holding Langston (21-12) to just 31.6 percent shooting (18-for-57) from the field. The Yellowjackets dominated the glass, out rebounding the Lions, 47035, which included 13 on the offensive end. GU recorded 14 second-chance points in the game as well.
Along with Davis’ 29 points, Will Nelson notched a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Deemer got his Hans on 10 rebounds and the duo of Deemer and Dembley added eight points each.
NAIA National Championship – Quarterfinals
March 17, 2018
vs University of Montana-Western (11)
Three Graceland University players scored 20-plus points to lead the Yellowjackets to an 88-62 win over Montana Western in the quarterfinals.
Graceland shot 51.6 perfect from the field (32-for-62) in the game, while holding Montana Western to 41.8 percent shooting (28-for-67). The Yellowjackets dominated the glass, out rebounding the Bulldogs, 41-32. Graceland also recorded 15 second-chance points in the game.
Justin Harley also added six points and nine rebounds for the Yellowjackets, who only had six players score in the game. However, no Graceland player scored less than six as the Yellowjackets utilized a balanced offensive attack in the victory.
National Championship – Semifinals
March 19, 2018
vs Louisiana State University – Shreveport
Graceland University used a strong second-half performance to defeat Louisiana State University – Shreveport, 87-80, in the semifinals.
Graceland shot 43.9 percent from the field (25-for-57), including 57.1 percent (16-of-28) in the second half. Louisiana Shreveport was held to 36.8 percent (25-for-68) shooting for the game after starting out hot. The Yellowjackets held a plus-eight rebounding margin at 44-36 and scored 34 points in the paint.
(The run to the finals) is bigger than basketball for Graceland University,” commented Graceland Men’s Basketball Coach Craig Doty, “This is about the university, the community, the alumni base and our alumni base is strong. Right now the excitement on campus is being generated by Basketball and this is really special. We probably had 3,000 people from a town of 2,200 here tonight.”
National Championship – Finals
March 21, 2018
vs Louisiana State University – Alexandria
A histórica season came to a close when Graceland University hoisted the national championship trophy of the 81st Annual NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship at Municipal Auditorium. Graceland became the first team from the state of Iowa to win the national championship in the event’s history when Graceland’s Justin Harley splashed a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Graceland an 83-80 overtime victory over LSU – Alexandria.
Graceland shot 46.6 percent from the field (27-for-58), including shooting 54.2 percent from beyond the arc (13-of-24). Louisiana Alexandria was held to 39.2 percent shooting (29-of-74) for the game. The Yellowjackets dominated the glass, out rebounding the Generals, 49-31, continuing its trend of out rebounding their opponents.
Nelson scored a team-high and a career-best 30 points to lead the Yellowjackets. the junior forward ended the game 12-for-21 from eh field, including a 4-of-5 effort from long range. He also added 12 rebounds. Davis. who was named the Chuck Taylor Most Valuable Player from the championship, chipped in 22 points and six assists. Deemer added a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Yellowjackets. It was Deemer’s third straight double-double in the tournament and 15th of the season overall.
In January, theatre major Haley Johnson ’19 placed first out of participants from 315 teams from seven states at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Region V Conference in Des Moines, Iowa.
This is a celebration. Who wouldn’t be proud of the accomplishments of the Graceland graduates featured here? And what I find even more exciting is that this is only the beginning of what we predict for their future.
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