Lake Erie College's first conference win as a member of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) did not come easy, but the Storm pulled out a road victory over Tiffin University, 68-66, at the Gillmor Student Center in Tiffin, Ohio.
The Storm (5-9, 1-6 GLIAC) was led by senior guard Antonio Kidd (Cleveland, Ohio/Lakewood), with a season-high 19 points off the bench as he replaced the scoring of senior guard Ethan Bradshaw (Cincinnati, Ohio/Harmony Prep), the third leading scorer in the GLIAC at 17.4 ppg, who missed the contest. Also in double figures for Lake Erie was junior guard Brandon Smith (Bedford, Ohio/Bedford/Cuyahoga Community College) with 14 points. Tiffin (3-13, 1-8 GLIAC) had three scorers in double figures led by Rafael Cuellar with 14.
Lake Erie got out to a strong start as it scored the first five points of the game and never trailed in the first half. The Green and White led by as many as 12 points on three separate occasions in the opening 20 minutes, the first after a 9-2 run capped by a Smith layup to take a 24-12 lead at 7:05. Kidd led the Storm with eight first half points as the Green and White took a 33-23 advantage to the intermission.
Lake Erie extended its lead to a game-high 13 points as sophomore guard Alex Davis (Macedonia, Ohio/Nordonia) knocked down a three-pointer to open the final 20 minutes but the second half struggles which have plagued the Storm all season returned. Tiffin went on two separate 8-0 runs as part of 20-5 spurt which put the Dragons ahead for the first time at the 12:58 mark, 43-41. That lead would be brief as the Storm went on a 10-2 run of their own, including eight straight points from Smith and strong contributions from senior center Jimmy Kerrigan (Strongsville, Ohio/Midpark), as his layup put Lake Erie ahead, 51-45, with 10:10 to play. Tiffin was able to cut that deficit in half, but a Kidd three-pointer returned the Storm lead to six at 56-50 going to the final five minutes.
Lake Erie's offense went cold over the next three minutes and did not score a point as a Devin Russell layup at 2:36 closed the Dragons to within two at 56-54. Lake Erie worked the ball inside down the stretch and got big layups from Kidd, sophomore center Garrick Sims (Barberton, Ohio/Barberton) and sophomore forward Eric Worthey (South Euclid, Ohio/Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy) on three straight possessions, but a pair of Tiffin three-pointers kept the game tight at 62-60 with 34 seconds to play. The Storm made all six free throws attempts in the final minute, as Kidd nailed a pair and junior forward Matt Grendel (Independence Ohio/Independence) made four straight, and they would need them all. Two more Dragon threes by Joe Graessle set Tiffin up for a chance to steal the win after a Lake Erie turnover with two seconds to play but Keenan Barlow's buzzer-beating three-point attempt was off the mark.
One key to the win was turnovers as both teams committed 18 but Lake Erie scored 23 points off those giveaways while Tiffin managed 13 points.
The Storm will be in action next on Thursday (Jan. 20) as their four-game road swing continues at Lake Superior State with tipoff scheduled for 5:30 p.m.