PAINESVILLE, Ohio – Lake Erie ran its season-opening win streak to four games with a 52-50 victory over Mercyhurst (Pa.) on Saturday.
A second-half comeback and the forcing of 26 turnovers for the game lifted the Storm (4-0) in a contest that marked its 2013-14 home opener. A balanced LEC offense was led by sophomore guard Sami Narducci, who scored 11 points in 23 minutes of action. Lake Erie has now held its opponent under 55 in three games.
"Our defense really stepped up in the second half," said Head Coach Bob Booher, whose Storm have now won four for the first time since the 2011-12 season. "We forced turnovers and made the most of them. I though Daija Jones played a very good game for us defensively and on the boards. She was a spark for us."
That spark resulted in Lake Erie coming back from a second-half deficit of 10 points. After a mostly-even exchange of points in the first half, Mercyhurst (1-2) came out of the gate strong in the second. Forward Natalie Piagessi scored three buckets in a 10-0 run that vaulted the Lakers to a 36-26 lead by the 15:26-mark.
The Storm gradually whittled away at that lead, and when Jones knocked down a trey at 9:03, Lake Erie had gained the lead, 37-36. A pair of ties ensued in the next few minutes, but Lake Erie then went on a crucial 9-0 run ending with Nrducci lay-ups on back-to-back possessions inside the five-minute mark.The 5-foot guard would go on to finish the game 4-of-7 from the floor.
Mercyhurst worked the lead down to two (48-46) by the 1:19-mark, but free throws by Narducci put LEC back in front by four.
The Lakers weren't finished, though, and baskets by Jessica Bell and Adrienne Kloecker tied the game, 50-50, with 27 seconds remaining.
On Lake Erie's next possession, two free throws turned that 50-50 proposition into a 52-50 Storm lead. A last-second 3-point attempt by the Lakers failed, and LEC emerged with a two-point victory in its home debut.
Kloecker notched a game-high 20 points for the Lakers; she was 7-of-11 from the field. Mariah Penascino had a game-high 10 rebounds in a contest that saw the visiting five haul down 45 rebounds to Lake Erie's 27.
The Storm got 11 points from Narducci, eight from Chloe Irish, eight from Jodie Jindra and eight from Jackie Murray. Jones had seven points and a team-high seven rebounds. She and Irish each had three steals. LEC was a plus-12 in turnover margin, committing 14 while forcing 26.
Lake Erie turned the Laker miscues into 27 points, and the Storm bench outscored MU's 28-7. LEC prevailed despite shooting a lackluster 50 percent (9-of-18) from the free-throw line.
The win for the Storm was its first against Mercyhurst in seven all-time meetings.
Lake Erie will look to up its winning streak to five games on Tuesday, when the Storm travels to Mansfield (Pa.) for a 5:30 tip against the Mansfield Mountaineers.
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