PAINESVILLE, OHIO – Lake Erie College (9-16, 4-14 GLIAC) got strong contributions from its bench and led with under five minutes to play but came up short in an 80-67 loss to Tiffin University (15-13, 7-11 GLIAC) at the Gillmor Center in Tiffin, Ohio.
Lake Erie's top two scorers on the season, sophomores Rich Austin (Cleveland, Ohio/St. Ignatius) and Riley Thomas (Cardington, Ohio/Cardington-Lincoln) split team-high honors with 12 points and seven rebounds each. Thomas also added six assists but shot just four-of-20 from the field. Sophomore Nate Tait (South Euclid, Ohio/Brush/Alderson-Broaddus) added 11 points off the bench, making both his three point attempts and carrying the Storm to a late second half lead. Junior center Jordan Baker (Erie, Pa./McDowell) added a career-high eight points off the bench. Tiffin had four players in double figures led by guard Karl Findlay with 23 points.
The Storm had 24 bench points coming on an efficient 10-of-17 shooting. As a team, Lake Erie shot just 37% (26-of-70) as its starters went 16-of-53 from the field.
The game was tied twice in the opening minutes as Thomas and Findlay each score their teams first five points on a three-pointer and a jumper. After being tied at 5-5, Lake Erie ran off an 8-0 run including threes by seniors Matt Grendel (Independence, Ohio/Independence) and Brandon Smith (Bedford, Ohio/Bedford/Cuyahoga Community College), playing their second last games as a member of the Storm. The lead would get to eight on two other occasions in the half, the second of which coming on a three-pointer by sophomore guard Tom Parker (Cleveland, Ohio/St. Ignatius) to make the score 22-14 at 10:44. The Storm's hot shooting start cooled off as they scored just one basket over the next 5:20. Over that span, Tiffin went on a 15-2 to run to take a 29-24 advantage with 5:22 to go in the half. A 6-0 run late in the half briefly put Lake Erie back on top but a Joe Graessle three-pointer gave Tiffin a 37-34 advantage in the final seconds of the half. Austin beat the buzzer with a tip-in to send Lake Erie to the half down just one, 37-36.
Austin then put Lake Erie on top with a pair of free throws to open the second half. Tiffin scored the next five points but the Storm came back to retake the lead at 44-43 on another tip-in by Austin at 16:36. Their lead increased with a jumper by redshirt freshman Jamil Dudley (Massillon, Ohio/Massillon) but Tiffin took advantage of a game-turning sequence with a 9-0 run to take a 52-46 edge at 12:39. That lead was extended to nine at 62-53 with 7:16 to play before Tait carried the Storm back into the ballgame. He hit back-to-back threes sandwiched around a pair of Findlay free throws then made a free throw of his own to make the score 64-60 with 6:26 to go. His teammates then joined the run as a Smith three-pointer and a Parker layup gave Lake Erie a 65-64 advantage with 4:50 to play.
The lead lasted just 17 seconds as Tiffin went back on top with a pair of Iman Johnson free throws at 4:33. Barlow then hit a jumper and a three-pointer on the Dragons' next two possessions to give them a comfortable 71-65 advantage. Austin slammed home a dunk to cut the deficit to 71-67 at 2:56 but it was Lake Erie's final score as Tiffin posted the game's final nine points.
Lake Erie returns home for Senior Day Saturday as it faces Ashland University at 3:00 p.m.