PAINESVILLE, OHIO – For the second straight game, Lake Erie College (8-14, 3-12 GLIAC) trailed by just a bucket at halftime against a tough GLIAC North foe and this time it stayed in the game until the final minute in a 64-57 loss to Grand Valley State University (14-9, 10-6 GLIAC) at the GVSU Fieldhouse in Allendale, Mich.
The Storm was led by the sophomore duo of forward Rich Austin (Cleveland, Ohio/St. Ignatius) and guard Riley Thomas (Cardington, Ohio/Cardington-Lincoln), as each player scored a game-high 19 points. The effort, which included four three-pointers, was a season-high for Thomas and one off his career-high. Austin did much of his work at the foul line going nine-of-10 with the Storm going 15-of-17 (88.2%) as a team from the charity stripe. The Lakers had four players in double figures led by guard James Thomas with 17 points.
It was a slow-tempo game with just 86 shot attempts between the teams. Grand Valley went 22-of-44 (50.0%) while Lake Erie was 18-of-42 (42.9%). The Lakers held a 26-8 advantage in points in the paint.
The game got off to a slow start offensively as the Storm did not score in the first 5:17 of action but limited GVSU's ability to capitalize and trailed just 4-0. A pair of free throws by sophomore guard Nate Tait (South Euclid, Ohio/Brush/Alderson-Broaddus) put Lake Erie on the board. A Tait assist to Thomas for a three-pointer moments later put the Storm on top for the first time at 8-6 and the game remained extremely tight throughout the rest of the half. Neither team led by more than one possession the rest of the half as there were six ties and six lead changes. Thomas led both teams in a defensively dominated first half with eight points. GVSU took a 25-23 advantage to the break as
Grand Valley scored the first four points of the second half to take the largest lead of the game for either team at that point but Lake Erie cut the deficit to two on two occasions, both via Austin layups, and trailed 31-29 with 15:20 to play. The Storm went cold again going more than four minutes without a point and the Lakers took advantage to push the lead to double figures at 39-29 with eight straight points. A three-pointer by sophomore guard Tom Parker (Cleveland, Ohio/St. Ignatius) ended the drought but the Lakers were able to maintain the comfortable edge for a considerable stretch as they led 49-38 with 6:48 to play. Lake Erie limited GVSU to just three points over the next 3:45 and cut the Lakers margin all the way down to three at 52-49 with 3:49 to go and to two at 53-51 after a pair of Austin free throws at 2:53. Grand Valley's Ryan Sabin hit a big three-pointer to slow Lake Erie' momentum though the Storm again cut the margin to one score at 60-57 when Thomas hit a three with 28 seconds to play. The Storm fouled Grand Valley's James Thomas who made both attempts and the game was sealed when Lake Erie came up short on two chances on the other end.
Lake Erie returns home Thursday as it continues cross-divisional GLIAC play with a matchup against Northern Michigan University at 8:00 p.m. The game will be part of Lake Erie's Taking Breast Cancer By Storm Weekend.