Nipper finished the game with a career-high 14 points to go along with eight rebounds and a career-high four blocks.
The Crusaders took an early 6-5 lead as Josh Burgess converted a free-throw, followed by a twisting lay-up in transition and Amonzo Gantt made his lone three-pointer of the day. Lincoln Memorial reclaimed the lead at 8-6 as Kai Wells answered with a three-pointer of his own on the ensuing Railsplitter possession.
Lincoln Memorial would not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the first half. The Railsplitters built an eight-point lead, 22-14 as Ronnie Jones tipped in a missed jump shot from Kenneth Fox.
The Crusaders then ripped off a 6-0 run over the next to cut in to the lead. A jump shot by Nipper and lay-ups from PJ Schumacher and Gantt cut the lead to 22-20.
The teams traded baskets for the remainder of the half, with Lincoln Memorial building the lead to seven, 35-28, with remaining in the half, and the Crusaders cutting the lead to two on four occasions. Two free-throws from Lincoln Memorial’s Kelvin Burnes with three seconds remaining in the half sent the Crusaders into the locker room trailing 41-37.
“We were definitely a bit rusty,” said Crusader head coach Chad Lister. “Despite having some good practices after the break, there is no substitution for game situations. I thought we handled their pressure well and got some easy baskets out of transition. Unfortunately, our turnovers, especially those that are unforced, continue to be our Achilles’ heel.”
The Crusaders turned the ball over 16 times in the first half.
Lincoln Memorial quickly answered back with a 13-2 run over the next three minutes to take their largest lead of the game at 54-44. Kai Wells and Johnny Martin each contributed five points during that stretch and the run was capped by a Stevie Akridge dunk.
The Crusaders chipped away over the next six minutes, eventually taking the lead, 61-60 as Daniel Morbitzer converted a pair of free-throws with remaining.
The teams again traded baskets for the final ten minutes of play as neither team could push ahead. A Victor Duck three-pointer gave the Crusaders a 68-66 lead with remaining. It would be
Lay-ups by Wells and Jones gave the Railsplitters a 70-68 lead with remaining. Three minutes later, Akridge made a three-pointer to give Lincoln Memorial the largest lead since the mark.
Lincoln Memorial took possession at the mark. The Crusaders forced Johnny Martin into a quick shot, but could not finish the play as Wells pulled down the offensive rebound for the Railsplitters. Lincoln Memorial then ran down the shot clock before Martin drew a foul on the Crusaders’ Andrew Nipper while shooting a three-pointer with 28 seconds remaining.
Martin missed the first two free-throws, then converted the third to give Lincoln Memorial a 75-74 lead.
The Railsplitters’ Martin missed a three-pointer from the corner as time expired.
“That out of bounds play was something that we have had a lot of success with in the past,” added Lister. “Andrew (Nipper) set a solid screen, which forced his man to hedge, giving him an angle to seal and post.
“We’ve lost a lot of close games recently, and it felt good to finally seem to get over the hump. We did not play exceptionally well, but we’ll take a win however it comes.”
The Crusaders improved to 2-8 on the season as Lincoln Memorial fell to 2-10.