STAUNTON — Grace Christian came into Saturday’s VACA regional championship looking to continue a dominating season in private high school basketball.
Against United Christian Academy, they rode their advantages of team depth, defense and outside shooting to a convincing 59-43 win.
Behind a tenacious full court press the Warriors quickly jumped out to an 8-0 lead.
The Crusaders continued to fight back early in the second period, cutting the lead to only a point at the six-minute mark.
The Warriors game plan was simple: attack the inside to finish in the paint or draw a foul. The challenge for United was stopping Grace Christian’s three-point shooting. When United did try from outside the paint, the Warriors dominated on the glass grabbing multiple defensive rebounds.
The Warriors did not relent on their full court press as they looked to seize the chance to put the game out of reach. The physical play from both teams resulted in 23 total fouls in the first half and plenty of free throws as Grace went into the locker room with a 36-18 advantage. David Wagoner led the Warriors with 12 points in the first half while Clayton Duke had 10, with seven of his coming from free throws.
The second half did not start any better for the Crusaders as a Thomas Musselman three gave the Warriors their biggest lead of the contest at 43-20. United continued to pound the ball inside to close to find itself down by 13 points as the third period expired.
Grace’s David Wagoner was named tournament MVP as he led all Grace Christian scorers with 14. With the win, the Warriors improve to 21-2 and head to the VACA state tournament.
“This is the first regional championship for the school in a long time, and really special for these guys,” Grace Christian coach Don Heishman said. “If we play like we did today defensively I like our chances against anybody. We played excellent defense today and that made the difference.”
UNITED CHRISTIAN (43) — J. Spence 2 1-8 5 Herring 1 0-1 2 Denne 5 0-0 12 M. Spence 3 3-5 9 Nisely 0 4-4 4 Morris 2 2-3 6 Yowell 1 3-4 5. TOTALS 14 13-25 43.
GRACE CHRISTIAN (59) — Wagoner 4 3-5 14 Eckert 0 1-2 1 Mayo 5 0-0 10 Frazier 4 1-2 11 Brent 1 0-0 3 Eiker 0 2-2 2 Duke 1 9-10 12 Musselman 2 0-0 6. TOTALS 17 16-21 59.