CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- CJ Parker's three-pointer with 34 seconds remaining gave Mount Mercy the lead for good and the Mustangs knocked down four straight free throws after that to earn a 79-77 victory over Graceland in Heart of America Athletic Conference men's basketball action Wednesday night at Hennessey Recreation Center.
Parker started off the game with a trey and Mount Mercy controlled the first half, never surrendering an early lead and building a seven-point advantage going into the break. Both teams struggled in the opening period as the Yellowjackets managed 33 field goal shooting while the Mustangs only hit 26.9 percent of their shots. The difference came at the free throw line, where Mount Mercy was 13-of-17 while Graceland went 0-for-2.
The Yellowjackets showed why they're one of the top teams in the conference, outscoring the Mustangs, 11-5, during the opening three minutes of the second half. An 8-1 run midway through the period gave Graceland its largest lead, 56-49, with 9:43 to go. But strong defense helped Mount Mercy climb back into the game. Parker came up big for the Mustangs at both ends, blocking a shot and then drilling back-to-back triples to turn a three-point deficit into a three-point lead with 34 seconds left. He and Chris Ford then put the game away at the foul line.
While Graceland outrebounded Mount Mercy, 39-37, and had one fewer turnover, the Mustangs shot 80 percent from the free throw line, where they outscored the Yellowjackets, 21-4. Seven Mustangs were in the scoring column, led by Parker's career-high 22 points. He finished 6-of-8 from beyond the arc. Ford, Ben Struss and Sheawn Bedford, Jr., joined Parker in double figures. Ford scored 12 of his 16 points from the free throw line. Struss and Bedford, Jr., had 13 points apiece. Bedford, Jr., also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds while Parker and Struss had six each. Parker and Ford each had six assists and Parker added four steals.
Graceland (18-9, 15-8 Heart) was led by Jeremy Deemer, who matched Parker with 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting. RJ Williams chipped in 19 points off the bench and Dylan Martin added 10. Martin had a game-high nine rebounds while Williams grabbed eight.
With the win, Mount Mercy (17-9, 16-7 Heart) earned the season sweep of Graceland and slipped past the Yellowjackets into fourth place in the Heart standings. There's no break for the Mustangs either, as they take on 14th-ranked Benedictine (Kan.) (20-6, 17-5 Heart) in the final game of a three-game homestand on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at Hennessey Rec Center.