PAINESVILLE, OHIO -- After playing five of the last six games on the road, the Lake Erie College women's basketball team returns to the Osborne Center this weekend for a pair of crucial cross-divisional games during the annual "Taking Breast Cancer by Storm" effort which is part of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Pink Wave initiative.
The fifth-place Storm (16-6, 10-5 GLIAC) will look to strengthen its playoff positioning against Northern Michigan University on Thursday, Feb. 16, and defending national runner-up and fourth-place Michigan Tech University on Saturday afternoon.
RIDE THE PINK WAVE: For the third straight season, Lake Erie basketball is hosting "Taking Breast Cancer by Storm" as part of the GLIAC Pink Wave. Fans will be admitted to each game free of charge and will have the opportunity throughout the weekend to purchase limited edition pink Storm gear. All proceeds from those sales, as well as donations collected at the game, will go to benefit the WBCA Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
CAREER SERVICES NIGHT: The Lake Erie College Career Services office is sponsoring an Employer Appreciation Night Thursday against Northern Michigan. Area businesses who sponsor internships throughout the year for Lake Erie students are invited for a special evening at the game.
LAST TIME OUT FOR THE STORM (BOX SCORE): After trailing by nine at halftime, the Storm opened the second half with a 30-8 run to take a 16-point lead at Grand Valley Saturday. That lead was at 11 with 2:28 to go before a 12-1 run by the home team tied it with six seconds to play. However, Cate Cianchetti got an open look from the elbow and drilled the game-winner at the buzzer for a 75-73 win. Ayssa Wagers led the Storm with 21 points, nine rebounds, a career-high six steals and career-high-tying five assists. Jen Caiola scored 15 points, Stephanie Rogers added 14 and Cianchetti chipped in with 10. Kara Crawford and Daina Grazulis each scored 18 for the Lakers.
STOPPERS: After losing Thursday night at Ferris State, 56-53, the Storm bounced back with its buzzer-beater at Grand Valley. It marked the fifth time this season following a loss that the Storm won their next game. Lake Erie has lost back-to-back games just once this season, Jan. 12-14 against Findlay and Tiffin.
CLOSE CALLS: Each of the Storm's last five games have been decided by three points or less. Lake Erie is 3-2 in its last five and is 5-2 overall this year in contests with a margin of four points or fewer.
WHAT A TURN AROUND: In its first season in the GLIAC, Lake Erie struggled to a 3-22 overall record and 2-17 league mark. This season, bolstered by the return of Alyssa Wagers and the addition of Cate Cianchetti, the Storm has shown a 13-game improvement overall to date and is vying for a conference tournament home game with its 10-5 league record.
SERIES HISTORY: Lake Erie met Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech for the first time last season. Both games were played on the Upper Peninsula, with the Storm coming out on the short end each time. Lake Erie fell to Northern Michigan 107-52 (BOX SCORE) and to Michigan Tech 89-49 (BOX SCORE).
OPPOSITION POSITION: The Wildcats (10-12, 6-9 GLIAC) had their two-game winning streak snapped in a 74-69 home loss to Lake Superior State last Thursday, but prior to that had climbed into playoff contention with wins over Wayne State University and the University of Findlay. Chelsea Lyons currently leads NMU in scoring (15.6 ppg.), rebounding (6.0 rpg.), assists (61) and steals (49). Michigan Tech (16-5, 11-4 GLIAC), which received votes in this week's WBCA Top 25 Poll, has a one-game lead on Lake Erie in the GLIAC standings. The Huskies have won three straight, and five-of-six overall, but face two of the top teams in the South this weekend on the road where they are just 5-4 on the season. Sam Hoyt leads three Huskies in double figures at 14.6 ppg., followed by Lynn Gielser (52% FG) at 13.1 ppg.
UP NEXT: Lake Erie closes out the regular season with a pair of critical GLIAC South Division showdowns. The Storm is at Tiffin, currently third in the overall conference standings, on Thursday Feb. 23 and then returns home to host the league's top team, fifth-ranked Ashland University on Senior Day Saturday, Feb. 25.