PAINESVILLE, OHIO – Visiting Tiffin University erased a nine-point deficit early in the second period and then held the Lake Erie College men's basketball team without a point for over a four-minute stretch in crutch time to hand the Storm a stunning 71-66 setback in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) play Saturday afternoon (Jan. 14) at the Jerome T. Osborne Family Athletic and Wellness Center.
The Storm (7-7, 2-5 GLIAC) led 41-32 at halftime but shot just 35.5 percent (11-of-31) in the second half, missing seven of their last eight shots down the stretch. After a 6-0 spurt that cut the Tiffin (7-10, 2-8 GLIAC) lead to just 65-64 with 4:24 to go, the Storm's next basket didn't come until sophomore guard Riley Thomas (Cardington, Ohio/Cardington Lincoln) scored the game's final points with two seconds to play.
It was strong play over the final minutes of the first half that had the Storm seemingly in control. The Dragons led through most of the period but the game was tied at 26-all with 4:57 to play in the period. A three-pointer by senior Matt Grendel (Independence, Ohio/Independence) and a break-away dunk by redshirt freshman Jamil Dudley (Massillon, Ohio/Massillon) kicked off a 15-6 spurt to close the frame.
Tiffin started to chip away at the lead immediately after halftime and tied the game at 45-45 on a three by Karl Finley less than five minutes in. The teams traded baskets and the lead frequently from there for the next seven minutes until the Dragons took the lead at 57-56 with 8:22 left.
A three by Isaiah Twine made it a 65-58 game before the Storm responded with a pair of lay-ups from junior Alex Davis (Macedonia, Ohio/Nordonia) and a jumper by sophomore Rich Austin (Cleveland, Ohio/St. Ignatius).
But the well turned dry after Austin's make. Tiffin scored a lay-up by Keenan Barlow with 2:04 to go that broke the Dragons' own four-plus minute dry spell and Finley hit two free throws with 32 seconds left to push the margin to five. A long rebound led to Finley's break-away dunk to put the game away with eight seconds to go.
Senior guard Brandon Smith (Bedford, Ohio/Bedford/Tri-C) led the Storm with 14 points and a game-high nine rebounds. He also helped out with four assists. Sophomore Tom Parker (Cleveland, Ohio/St. Ignatius) scored 11 and Austin finished with 10 for the Storm, which dropped its second straight.
Finley scored a game-high 20 points and added seven assists and seven rebounds. Travis Spahr (14 points) and Joe Graessle (12) joined Finley in double figures to put an end to their two-game slide.
The Storm continues its four-game homestand on Thursday, Jan. 19, against Lake Superior State University on Mentor Area Chamber of Commerce Night.