PAINESVILLE, Ohio—The Lake Erie College men's basketball team battled past Malone University in the Storm's Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) South Division opener Thursday (Jan. 16), coming away with a 98-93 win at home.
The contest was a back and forth battle, featuring 33 lead changes and 15 ties.
Riley Thomas (Cardington, Ohio/Cardington-Lincoln) scored a career-high 33 points to lead the Storm (7-8, 4-5 GLIAC), hitting six-of-ten three-pointers and nine-of-ten free-throws.
The teams traded points back and forth early on in a defensive battle, exchanging the lead six times in the opening 10 minutes. The Pioneers (6-7, 4-5 GLIAC) found themselves ahead 20-16 midway through the half. Nick Wells (Akron, Ohio/St. Vincent/St. Mary) and Steve Walczak (Columbus, Ohio/Olentangy) had five points each off the bench in the opening 10 minutes.
The Storm scored the next four points, capped off by a thunderous dunk by Garrick Sims (Barberton, Ohio/Barberton) to tie the game at 20. The momentum continued through a Malone timeout as they scored four more- an 8-0 run overall, to move ahead 24-20.
The Pioneers came back, scoring five straight to regain the lead but a quick Thomas three put the Storm back in the lead. After Malone tied the game at 30, Colin Barth (Mentor, Ohio/Mentor) scored his first points on his first shot of the season- a three-pointer- to put the Storm ahead but the Pioneers scored the next five to regain the lead, 35-33. A pair of Thomas free-throws tied it up and a traditional three-pointer by Walczak switched the lead back to the Storm side once again.
After the Pioneers moved ahead 41-40, Thomas drained a three-pointer to end the first-half and put the Storm in front, 43-41, at the break.
Overall, the first-half featured 17 lead changes and five ties. Thomas ended the half with 14 points. Walczak registered a career-high nine points off the bench while grabbing three boards. The Storm shot 50% (17-of-34) from the floor in the first-half compared to the Pioneers 43.8% (14-of-32). Lake Erie owned a slight edge in the rebounding department, 19-18. 24 of the Storm's first-half points were in the paint.
Malone opened the second-half on a 5-0 run to regain the lead. After an Andy Bosley (Columbus, Ohio/Orange) three, Sims had a huge block which was followed up by three-pointer by Thomas to put the Storm ahead by one.
The back and forth play continued, with nine lead changes in the second-half's opening ten minutes. Malone owned a 66-64 lead midway through. Sims hit a lay-up-and-one to put the Storm in front by one but Christian Graves was fouled shooting a three on the ensuing possession and converted all three free-throws. Thomas continued to be the answer for the Storm, draining his fifth three-pointer to follow-up the free-throws. Sims extended the lead to three before a Grave's three tied once again.
Nick Deitsch (Lewis Center, Ohio/Orange) recorded a block and followed it up with a fast break lay-up to break the tie. Daniel Wise tied it on the other end of the floor but missed a free-throw which would have given Malone a one point lead. Sean Howard (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) hit a free-throw for the Storm to put them back in the lead.
After trading free-throws, Bosley and Thomas hit back-to-back threes to give the Storm an 87-80 lead, their largest of the evening at the time.
The Storm held onto their lead, hitting eight free-throws in the final minute to seal the conference victory.
Sims ended the game with 13 points, a team-high eight rebounds and two blocks. Walczak had a career-high ten points and tied his career-high with five rebounds. Tom Parker (Cleveland, Ohio/St. Ignatius) had eight points to go alongside his six rebounds and four assists. In addition to his career-high in points, Thomas registered four rebounds and two assists.
Isiah Elliot led the Pioneers with 23 points while Graves ended with 18. Cory Velghuizen netted twenty points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds. Vince Kazmierczak (12) and Che Richardson (11) also scored in double-figures.
The Storm outshot the Pioneers 50.9%-43.3% from the floor. Lake Erie strived at the free-throw line, converting 29-of-36 attempts (80.6%). After going four-of-12 (33.3%) from the three-point line in the first-half, the Storm hit seven-of-11 (63.6%) in the second-half. Lake Erie won the battle of the boards, 39-36.
The Storm concludes their four-game home stand Saturday (Jan. 18), playing host to GLIAC foe Walsh University.