Late comeback gives Lakers weekend split

Courtesy Photo / Ryan Baker - Baker Media Productions
Senior Justin Ringler looks for an opening to the basket during Saturdays away game against Lake Erie

Courtesy Photo / Ryan Baker – Baker Media Productions Senior Justin Ringler looks for an opening to the basket during Saturday’s away game against Lake Erie

Brady Fredericksen

Furious second-half rallies have become a signature of the No. 22 Grand Valley State University men’s basketball team in the latter half of the season. Rallying from second-half deficits in three of their last four road games, the GVSU men secured another comeback victory Saturday as they out-gunned Lake Erie College 76-69.

The Lakers (17-6, 12-4 GLIAC), who trailed by as many as 10 points in the second half, locked down on defense and out-scored the Storm (5-17, 1-14 GLIAC) by 12 down the stretch to seal the victory.

“We just buckled down on the defensive end and got stops,” said junior guard Wes Trammell, who scored 14 points off the bench. “The more we communicated, the more our intensity and urgency rose. We knew our defense would win the game.”

Defense has been the calling card for GVSU during its recent stretch of second-half heroics, but the play of senior Justin Ringler, who has carried the team during the recent stretch, was something head coach Ric Wesley noted as a key to the win.

“He’s just tremendous, and sometimes I don’t think people appreciate how great of a player he’s been for us,” said Wesley, who has coached Ringler since his freshman year. “He kept us in it today until the end, and as his career comes to an end, I want people to appreciate what he’s done.”

After a slow start in their 82-75 loss at Ashland University on Thursday – a game in which they never led – the Lakers found their offense early and kept pace with the last-place Storm throughout the first half.

Bench contributions from junior guards Trammell and Tony Peters (nine points) proved important during the Lakers’ second-half spurt. The return of senior guard Alvin Storrs, who played in his second game back from a concussion, keyed the team’s charge as Storrs scored eight points off the bench.

“The big thing was energy and keeping it up during the game to try to put them away,” Trammell said. “We wanted to keep the energy up and play good defense, and with Al off the bench, it helped even more.”

As the end of the first half approached, GVSU put together a scoring-run capped off by a Breland Hogan 3-pointer with 42 seconds left, which gave the Lakers a 30-28 lead, but Lake Erie guard Ethan Bradshaw, who led all players with 23 points, knocked in a triple of his own with seven seconds left to give the home team a one-point lead going into the half.

“I thought our attitude and effort was good, but our execution and focus early in the game on both sides wasn’t,” said Wesley, who called a pair of first-half timeouts to slow the momentum. “I didn’t want to let (the game) get away and just emphasized stops and being in the right spots.”

Coming out of the half, the Lakers found themselves victim to a Lake Erie run that put them down ten points with a little over 12 minutes left in the game. The Lakers steadily climbed back in the next seven minutes and took their first lead of the half, 55-54, on a Peters three-pointer with 5:32 remaining.

From there, the Lakers continued to add to their lead thanks to Ringler’s play down the stretch. The senior, who scored eight of his team-high 20 points in the final five minutes, put GVSU on his back yet again to lead them to the seven point win.

“It all depends on the match-ups we’re getting, and the last couple games, we’ve seen some big lineups,” said Ringler, who added a team-high eight rebounds. “When I play the four, I’m undersized but usually quicker than the guy guarding me, so I’ve been trying to find advantages then run with them.”

Ringler and the second-place Lakers will have a five-day break before returning for two of their biggest games of the season. GVSU will take on No. 3 University of Findlay on Thursday and Wayne State University on Saturday with both games being played at home.

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