BIG RAPIDS, OHIO – Senior center Stephanie Rogers (Mentor, Ohio/Mentor) scored a game-high 20 points, but fouled out with 1:30 left to play Thursday night (Feb. 19) at 25th-ranked Ferris State University. But without one of the league's best low post defenders, the Storm surrendered offensive rebounds and putbacks on consecutive possessions, allowing the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) North Division-leading Bulldogs to score the game's final six points for a 56-53 win at Wink Arena.
But until that point it looked as though the Storm (15-6, 9-5 GLIAC) were going to pull out a third straight come-from-behind win. Lake Erie trailed 49-41 with 5:18 to play but went on a 12-1 to take a 53-50 lead with just under two minutes to play.
Rogers picked up her fifth foul at the 1:45 mark and Christina Branch made one the first free throw and then picked up her own miss on the second and found teammate Nikki Arner underneath for the tying bucket. After a Lake Erie miss, Branch picked up her 12th rebound of the game by following her own miss down low with a lay-up to give the Bulldogs (16-4, 13-1 GLIAC) back the lead. Tricia Principe then hit one-of-two-free throws with 1.4 seconds left to finish off the scoring.
Early on it appeared the Bulldogs would easily cruise to their 10th straight win. Ferris State scored the game's first eight points and led by as many as 13 in the first half. But Lake Erie, with the resilience it has shown all season, outscored the host 11-2 over the final 4:15 of the half to trail by just four at halftime (30-26).
Three Branch free throws to open the second gave Ferris State a seven-point lead, but again the Storm came back taking its first lead of the game at 36-35 with 14 minutes to go. However, LEC went cold from the field and scored just three points over the next seven minutes and trailed by nine before making their final push.
Rogers was seven-of-12 from the field and hit all six of her free throws for her 20 points. The rest of the Storm was just eight-of-38 (21%) from the floor, including just four-of-22 from three-point range. Graduate senior forward Alyssa Wagers (Stow, Ohio/Stow-Munroe Falls) was the only other Storm player in double figures, scoring 10 points.
The Bulldogs had four players score in double figures, led by Branch's 16 points. Arner, Kelsey DeNoyelles and Sarah DeShone each scored 10. Behind Branch's 12 rebounds, the Bulldogs owned a convincing edge on the boards, doubling up the Storm 42-21. Ferris State shot 45% (20-of-44) from the floor, making up for committing 24 turnovers.
The Storm concludes its weekend road swing through western Michigan on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 11, at Grand Valley State University. Tip-off is at 1 p.m. in Allendale, Mich.