Former Apollo High School standout Zach Hopewell scored a career-best 23 points, but Lake Erie’s second-half shooting was too much to overcome as Kentucky Wesleyan fell 71-62 on Saturday in Painesville, Ohio.
Hopewell made 9-of-18 shots from the field, including 4-of-9 from 3-point range, while Adam Goetz added 16 points and nine rebounds for the Panthers (7-12, 6-6 in G-MAC). Wyatt Battaile posted 12 points and eight rebounds, as well.
Kaleb Vaughn led Lake Erie (13-9, 7-5) with 20 points and 10 rebounds, with Gabe Kynard and Jacob Plantz adding 17 and 15 points, respectively. Harrison Riggs chipped in 10 points for the Storm, who shot 7-of-13 from distance in the second half to overcome a 31-30 halftime deficit.
A layup by PJ Jones pushed Lake Erie ahead 30-26 with 2:33 left in the first half, but a layup by Battaile within the final minute and his 3-pointer at the horn gave the Panthers a one-point advantage at intermission.
However, Lake Erie reeled off a 14-2 lead midway through the period — capped off by Plantz’s 3 that put his team ahead 58-42.
“We did not play a perfect first half, but we were still right there,” Wesleyan coach Drew Cooper said. “Those first two four-minute games (of the second half), they killed us.
“We didn’t do well enough. I didn’t do well enough as a coach, especially offensively, of trying to get our young men in those spots to be able to flourish.”
KWC didn’t give up, though. Hopewell’s 3-point make at 3:03 capped off an 8-1 Panthers run to cut the deficit to 65-58, but Wesleyan couldn’t get any closer from there.
“I was proud of Zach Hopewell today,” Cooper said. “Without Zach, this could’ve been a disaster. ... He competes day in and day out, and today, he and Wyatt carried us.”
According to a Cooper, a lot of his team’s struggles came down to more toughness and more physicality put forth by Lake Erie.
“I would’ve liked to have gotten the sweep,” he said. “Lake Erie’s a good team. They had a tough week last week on the road. There’s five of us competing for a postseason berth — us, Lake Erie, Ohio Dominican, Malone and Alderson Broaddus — and we have to do some things those five teams don’t do. This was an opportunity to do it. We just didn’t take that step today.”
For the game, KWC shot 36.9% from the field, making 10-of-28 from long range (35.7%), with 4-of-5 shooting from the free-throw line (80%). The Panthers claimed 33 rebounds and turned the ball over just four times.
Lake Erie shot 43.5% from the floor, 9-of-22 from distance (40.9%) and 8-of-15 on foul shots (53.3%). The Storm hauled in 43 boards and committed only six turnovers.
The Panthers return to action Thursday with a home matchup against Findlay.