It's a matchup of the Comeback Kids against the Cardiac Kids. The Faith Eagles and Great Lakes Christian Crusaders are similar in the way they win, but different in the way they get it done. Both the Faith Eagles (The Comeback Kids) and the Great Lakes Crusaders (The Cardiac Kids) have had remarkable comebacks this postseason on their separate routes to the NCCAA Championships, but both play contrasting styles in what should be a terrific quarterfinal matchup on Thursday in Joplin, Missouri.
The Faith Eagles enter the NCCAA Division II Men's National Championships this week as the No. 6 seed in the eight-team field. Faith will face No. 3 seed Great Lakes Christian College in the opening game of the tournament on Thursday, March 12, at 2:00 p.m.
Great Lakes Christian is the defending national runner-up from 2019. The Crusaders are from Lansing, Michigan, and advanced to the tournament as an at-large selection after losing in the regional championship to Grace Christian, the nation's top-ranked team and the No. 1 seed in the field. Grace Christian is the same team that beat Great Lakes Christian in overtime in last year's championship game. Both hail from the basketball-rich state of Michigan.
The Crusaders took down the nation's fourth-ranked team (Johnson University) in dramatic fashion, rallying from 26 points to beat Johnson in the regional semifinal, similar in fashion to the way the Faith Eagles advanced to their regional championship, rallying from 21 down against Maranatha in their semifinal game. Great Lakes also won their previous game in the last second against Welch College on a put-back attempt with .1 second remaining.
While they both win in dramatic fashion, Great Lakes and Faith play contrasting styles, with Faith relying on a strong post game and hard-nosed rebounding on the interior. The Crusaders are very-much a perimeter-oriented team, averaging nearly ten made three-pointers per game. Great Lakes shoots one of the best three-point percentages in the nation at 36.8 percent, while the Eagles boast the nation's top three-point defense at 27.8 percent.
Great Lakes boasts an extremely balanced scoring attack, with six players averaging double figures. An athletic and quick Crusaders team is led by 6-2 junior Isaiah Reed at 14.8 ppg. Reed has buried 98 three-pointers on the year, shooting 41.7 percent from three. He is followed in scoring by 5'11 senior guard Elijah Kess at 13.7 ppg (68-of-169 from three), 6-2 Ja'quin Jones at 13.6 ppg (45-111 from three), 6-5 Trent Temple at 13.3 ppg, 6-5 junior Jalen Huff at 13.2 points and 8.4 rebounds, and 6-2 junior Jahmal Eggleston at 11.1 ppg.
The winner of the game between the Eagles and the Crusaders advances to the NCCAA Division II semifinals on Friday, March 13, at 6:00 p.m. against the winner of Manhattan Christian and Johnson University. The loser, moves to the consolation bracket on Friday, March 13, at 10:00 a.m.