The Lake Erie College men's basketball team led by as much as 11 points in the second half and by eight with 6:22 to play, but an 18-6 run to close the game gave Ashland University a 68-64 victory in the GLIAC home opener for the Storm at the Osborne Center Arena in Painesville, Ohio.
The Eagles improve to 4-3 and 1-2 in the GLIAC while Lake Erie falls to 2-5 and 0-3 in conference play. The loss was the Storm's first at home this season (2-1) and fifth straight overall.
Lake Erie was led by senior guard Ethan Bradshaw (Cincinnati, Ohio/Harmony Prep) who was in double-figures for the fifth time in six games with a team-high 19 points. Also in double-figures for the Storm was junior Brandon Smith (Bedford, Ohio/Bedford/Cuyahoga Community College) with 10 marks. Ashland's comeback was spurred by 5-5 guard David Harris who had a game-high 22 off the bench, 18 of which came in the second half.
Ashland held at least a share of the lead for the first nine minutes before Lake Erie took its first lead at 14-12 at 10:53 in the half on a jumper by senior guard Antonio Kidd (Cleveland, Ohio/Lakewood). The Eagles quickly retied the game at 14-14, but the Storm went on a 9-2 run to take their biggest lead of the first half at 23-16 with 8:18 to play on a jumper by junior Matt Grendel (Independence, Ohio/Independence). Ashland scored eight straight points to retake the lead at 24-23 and the game was tied twice in the final two minutes of the half before a Bradshaw jumper in the final 10 seconds gave the Storm a 29-27 advantage at the break.
Lake Erie scored seven of the first eight points out of the break capped off by a Bradshaw jumper which made the score 36-28 with 18:41 in the game. The Storm extended that advantage to a game-high 11 at 43-32 on a free throw by sophomore center Garrick Sims (Barberton, Ohio/Barberton) at 15:28. The Eagles closed the gap to three on three separate occasions but the Lake Erie reopened an eight point lead at the 6:22 mark on a Sims free throw.
Over the next three minutes, Ashland would go on a 12-0 which gave them a 62-58 advantage with 3:09 to play. Their first lead of the second half came in the midst of that run on a three-pointer by Harris at the 3:42 mark. The Storm got within three at 62-59 on a Sims free throw at 2:45 but it was the last time they would be within one possession as Lake Erie went 5:31 without a field goal until a Bradshaw three-pointer made the score 66-62 with 1:14 to play. Two Harris free throws in the final minute helped seal the game for the Eagles as a Smith layup in the closing seconds gave the final 68-64 margin.
Ashland outscored Lake Erie 40-20 in the paint, which helped the Eagles to a 54.0-43.4% shooting edge. The Eagles were particularly strong in the second half shooting 65.2% (15-of-23).
The Storm returns to action next Saturday, when they host Northwood (Mich.) University in the first half of a men's and women's GLIAC doubleheader beginning at 1:00 p.m.