PAINESVILLE, OHIO – Lake Erie College (2-1) trailed by seven points with under seven minutes to play but an 11-0 run helped the Storm outscore visiting Malone University (2-1), 23-5 to close the game and earn a 72-61 victory at the Jerome T. Osborne Family Athletic & Wellness Center.
The Storm scoring attack was led by sophomore guard Nate Tait (South Euclid, OH/Brush), who ended the day with a career-high 23 points. Junior Eric Worthey (South Euclid, OH/CVCA) recorded his second career double-double in as many games to finish with 16 points and 11 rebounds and sophomore Rich Austin (Cleveland, OH/St. Ignatius) nearly joined him with nine points, all coming in the second half, and 10 boards. Sophomore Riley Thomas (Cardington, Ohio/Cardington-Lincoln) chipped in with 13 points as well. Guard Eric Coblentz turned in a strong effort for the Pioneers with 23 points.
Lake Erie's Tait and Malone's Coblentz exchanged three-point baskets to open the scoring and it started a back-and-forth first half which saw the Pioneer lead reach as many as five points several time. The Storm was able to take their first lead of the game on a Tait lay-in to make the score 29-28 with 3:00 remaining in the half to cap off a 9-2 Storm run. The teams traded baskets before Coblentz was able to answer with another three-point shot with nine seconds left to send Malone to the locker room with a 33-31 advantage.
The scoring seesaw continued well into the second half with neither team holding more than a four point advantage until two straight Coblentz threes and a Cody Veldhuizen lay-in gave Malone a 56-49 lead with 7:17 remaining in the game. Following a timeout, Lake Erie exploded for an 11-0 run, finished off by a three-point goal from senior Brandon Smith (Bedford, OH/Cuyahoga CC) to take a 60-56 advantage with 3:17. A pair of free throws closed the Malone deficit to two, but Lake Erie rattled off 10 more consecutive points to ice the game, going six-for-six from the foul line in that stretch.
The Storm's efforts at the foul line were the difference as they went 18-of-22 (81.8%) while the Pioneers were just eight-of-18 (44.4%), Lake Erie forced Malone into 18 turnovers while committing just 10.
Lake Erie's stretch of five straight home games continues next Sunday at 7:30 p.m. with a non-conference contest against Mercyhurst College.