PAINESVILLE, OHIO – Lake Erie College (7-8, 2-6 GLIAC) nearly overcame a 12-point deficit in the final 1:40 but fell to Lake Superior State University (8-8, 3-6 GLIAC), 73-69 in cross-divisional GLIAC matchup at the Jerome T. Osborne Family Athletic & Wellness Center in Painesville, Ohio.
Both teams were red-hot from the field. Lake Superior State shot 56.2%(18-of-32) in the first half and 51.9% for the game (27-of-52). That slightly edge the Storm which shot 51.8% (29-of-56) for the game including 56.7% (17-of-30) in the second half. The Lakers also held a big 35-23 edge on the glass, holding Lake Erie to just four offensive rebounds.
Lake Erie was led by sophomore guards Riley Thomas (Cardington, Ohio/Cardington-Lincoln) and Nate Tait (South Euclid, Ohio/Brush/Alderson-Broaddus) with 17 points each. Thomas hit three three-pointers and Tait knocked down a pair coming off the bench. Also in double-figures for the Storm was senior guard Brandon Smith (Bedford, Ohio/Bedford/Cuyahoga Community College) with 10 points. Lake Superior State was led by guard Derek Billings with a game-high 19 points including the game-clinching free throws in the final five seconds.
The Storm got into a hole early as Lake Superior State came out strong from the field. The Lakers made three-pointers on their first two possessions but Lake Erie evened the score at 6-6 on a pair of free throws by Smith. LSSU answered with a 7-0 run and would lead the rest of the game. The Lakers pushed that lead to double-digits for the first time at 23-13 with 11:05 to play in the half but Lake Erie's defense picked up the pace an helped the Green and White get within four at 25-21 after a jumper by sophomore guard Justin Roth (Parma, Ohio/Parma). LSSU quickly erased the ground the Storm had made up with another 7-0 run and the teams traded baskets the rest of the half with the Lakers taking a 40-27 advantage to the break.
Thomas hit a three to open the second half for Lake Erie and cut its deficit to 10 but the Lake Superior lead would not get down to single digits until Tait converted a three-point play to make the score 46-37 at 14:29. That came at the tail end of one of a series of mini-runs for the Storm but each time the Lakers had the answer. Lake Erie cut the gap to single digits again with 8:22 to play as a layup by redshirt freshman Jamil Dudley (Massillon, Ohio/Massillon) made the score 55-47. LSSU answered with five straight points and its lead would not be down to single digits again until 2:45 remained as a Thomas jumper made the score 62-54. Four free throws by LSSU's Cameron Metz moved the margin to 12 but a Smith three and a Dudley jumper made the score 66-59 with 1:10 to play. After the Lakers split a pair of free throws, Tait layup cut the margin to six and a Lake Erie steal gave the Storm a chance to cut it to one possession before a turnover of its own led to a fast break dunk for LSSU's Kyle Hunt to briefly derail the rally and put the Lakers up eight with 28 seconds to go. Lake Erie kept its foot on the gas as scores on three straight possessions, including threes by Thomas and Tait, to bring the Storm to within two at 71-69 with 3.9 seconds to play. The Storm fouled immediately and Lake Superior State's Derek Billing hit both free throws to seal the game for good.
Lake Erie returns to action Saturday as it hosts Saginaw Valley State University at 3:00 in the final game of a four-game homestand. The game will be the second Youth Jersey day hosted by the Storm with free admission to those ages 12 and under wearing their youth team jersey.