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Cedar Springs duo leads Tigers to regional championship


Two Cedar Springs men, Gary Bailey (right) and Dan George (left) are the head coach and assistant coach for the men’s basketball team at Grace Bible College in Grand Rapids. Last weekend they celebrated their ninth regional championship.

Two Cedar Springs men, Gary Bailey (right) and Dan George (left) are the head coach and assistant coach for the men’s basketball team at Grace Bible College in Grand Rapids. Last weekend they celebrated their ninth regional championship.

Gary Bailey, Dan George continue to build Grace basketball tradition

Two Cedar Springs men continue to build the basketball tradition at Grace Bible College—winning nine regional championships in 11 years of coaching. But the twist in the tale is this: in the beginning, they didn’t intend for the coaching jobs to be permanent.

When Gary Bailey, of Cedar Springs, took over as head coach of the Grace Bible College men’s basketball team in 2005, his intention was to take the job for a year. His son, Kirby, was a senior and an All-American for the Tigers, and Bailey saw his role as a transition one for that one year. He called his former college coach and long time friend, Dan George, currently school leader and superintendent at Creative Technologies Academy, and asked him to be his assistant.

Reflecting on that request, Dan explains, “I said, OK, I’ll do it for a year.” But the Tigers surprised everyone that first year, transforming a mid-season mediocre record to an overtime regional championship victory, and then went on to shock the national tournament’s #2, #3, and #1 seeds in successive games and won the national championship on a last second buzzer beater tip in by former Cedar Springs High School player, Jimmy Booth.

I think we got hooked,” says Dan, with a smile, “so we decided to hang around for more than that one year.”

The Grace Bible Tigers celebrated winning the regional championship last weekend, and are poised to win it all this season.

The Grace Bible Tigers celebrated winning the regional championship last weekend, and are poised to win it all this season.

One year has been extended to 11 and the two show no signs of retirement, yet. This past Saturday, the Tigers won their ninth regional championship in those 11 years with a dominant 79-49 win over Maranatha Baptist University. Bailey was named regional coach of the year for the seventh time to go with two national coach of the year awards and the prestigious Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan College Coach of the Year in 2011.

Bailey and George added a run of four consecutive national championships in 2009-2012, which included a streak of 69 consecutive NCCAA victories, a record that most people in the NCCAA say will never be broken, and brought their total to five rings in 10 years, and this year’s Tigers appear poised to challenge for a sixth.

The Tigers have become a highly respected small college program with a reputation of a willingness to play anyone, anywhere, and being competitive when they do. Signature wins in the last eleven years include victories over Ferris State University, Davenport University, Cornerstone University, and perennial MIAA powerhouses Calvin College and Hope College.

Although the small school does not give athletic scholarships, their schedule annually includes a number of high profile programs that do give athletic scholarships, and Bailey and his coaches have been able to assemble and develop some outstanding talent in the last 11 years. This year’s schedule included Coastal Carolina University, an NCAA Division 1 national tournament team last year, several NCAA Division II schools, including two in Honolulu, Hawaii, and Grand Valley State University, Northern Michigan University, and Saginaw Valley State University, and several NAIA programs. The Tigers also played a preliminary game at the Palace of Auburn Hills on the night the Pistons retired Chauncey Billups’ jersey. The guarantees provided by playing these larger schools help fund the Tigers’ ambitious travel schedule and the tough schedule helps them attract and develop talent that other schools have overlooked.

One of those overlooked players was Allen Durham who played high school ball at Wyoming Park High School, won three national championships at Grace, spent most of this year with the Dallas Mavericks organization, and is now starring in professional play in France. Most of Grace’s high profile games are played early in the season and toughen the Tigers in preparation for the very difficult NCCAA games and end of the year tournaments.

There is little doubt that the success of the men’s basketball program has had an impact off the court as well. The college was recently recognized as the fastest growing Bible college in the United States. The coaching staff has also emphasized community service and the team tackles several projects a year. One of their favorites is an annual visit to Pineview Homes, a home for delinquent, abused, and neglected boys in Evart, Michigan. Each Christmas season, the Tigers spend several hours with the boys in an afternoon and then attend their Christmas party and dinner. Pineview Director Paul Derscheid, says it is something the boys talk about weeks before in anticipation and months afterward they are still wearing their autographed Grace shirts.

Both coaches are members of the Grace Athletic Hall of Fame with Bailey being inducted in 2013 and George being inducted in 2014. While acknowledging satisfaction in the accomplishments and appreciation for the awards and recognition, Bailey is quick to give credit to those who have assisted in this journey.

For George, it is more than the rings and thrill of championships that keeps him going. “It’s the relationships you build along the way, with fellow coaches, with players, and even opponents,” says Dan, “and it’s the opportunity to mentor and influence young men in the things that are more important than basketball.”

Bailey echoes that sentiment. “Our rewards are far beyond wins and losses. It’s the opportunity to see young men develop on and off the court, and become outstanding husbands, fathers, and contributors to society.”

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Algoma Christian grad makes athlete of the week


Charisa Becker, an Algoma Christian grad and freshman at Grace Bible college, was named student-athlete of the week in Div. II by the NCCAA.

Charisa Becker, an Algoma Christian grad and freshman at Grace Bible college, was named student-athlete of the week in Div. II by the NCCAA.

Charisa Becker

Charisa Becker

Charisa Becker, a woman’s soccer player from Grace Bible College, was named Div. II student athlete of the week by the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) last week.

Becker, a 2015 Algoma Christian grad, scored the game tying goal in a 1-1 tie with Andrews University on October 22, and played solid defense throughout the match. The freshman defender/goalkeeper from Algoma Township was sent forward late in the game and responded by beating the Andrews keeper after a nice move in the penalty area. On Saturday, October 24, Charisa stepped into the goal and held a tough Cleary team to 2 goals, making 10 saves along the way.

Becker is the daughter of Tod and Rebecca Becker, of Algoma Township.

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Grace Bible College wins third straight national title


Coach Gary Bailey of Cedar Springs named coach of the year


Grace Bible College won its third consecutive NCCAA II national championship and the fourth in six years in Springfield, Missouri Saturday night with a 76-56 drubbing of Valley Forge Christian College.  The championship game was a rematch of the 2009 title game which Grace won by 2 points.

Grace’s head coach, Gary Bailey, and assistant coach, Dan George, are Cedar Springs residents.  George was Bailey’s college coach 32 years ago and the two have been teamed up at Grace for the last six years.  “It has been an amazing run, especially these last three years,” said Dan George.  “It kind of started two years ago when we beat Ferris State University on their floor.  People started paying attention to tiny Grace.”

Gary Bailey was named Midwest Region Coach of the Year for the fourth consecutive year and he was named National Coach of the Year for the second time, previously winning the honor in 2009.

Team accomplishments this year included:

•    Victories over Calvin College and Hope College in their tournaments with Grace winning both tournaments

•    Leading NAIA Champion Cornerstone University by 16 at halftime before falling to the Golden Eagles on a buzzer beating three-pointer.

•    Setting a new school record for victories in a season (breaking the 30-8 record they set in 2009) with a record of 31-7.

•    Expanding their record setting NCCAA II winning streak to 58 in a row.  The Tigers have not lost an NCCAA II game in three years and they have been ranked #1 in the country since January of 2009.

This year’s tournament run began at the Midwest Regionals in Chicago where Grace dominated Emmaus, Northland International University, and Lincoln Christian University and moved on to the National Tournament in Springfield, Missouri last week as the #1 seed.  The Tigers handled #8 Kentucky Christian University on Thursday, 74-53, but survived a scare from #4 Dallas Christian on Friday night.  Grace trailed by 13 at halftime before fighting back and winning in overtime, 69-67.  The Tigers built a 13 point lead at the half of the championship game against Valley Forge and expanded it to as much as 27 points in the second half before Bailey emptied his bench to give all his players an opportunity to contribute.

Allen Durham (Wyoming Park) was named Tournament MVP and winner of the Maravich Award as NCCAA II Player of the Year.  Durham and Cory Jamieson (Wayland) were named All-Americans.

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