STUNNER IN INDY: Lake State Rallies Past Walsh

This story is courtesy of Lake Superior State Athletics.

The Lake Superior State (LSSU) basketball program (22-8) came back in the second half to upset the No. 3 seeded Walsh Cavaliers (24-6) by a final score of 74-72 in the NCAA Midwest Regional Quarterfinals on Saturday.

"I couldn't be prouder of our team," said LSSU Head Coach Steve Hettinga. "When we were down at the half, I told our team that this is where we've been all season. It's just a game of runs."

The Lakers continued to show their resiliency on the biggest stage, having been down by as many as 13 points with seven minutes to play, LSSU fought back to end the game on an 18-3 run to go from a 69-56 deficit, to a 74-72 win when the final buzzer sounded.

"It feels great," said senior captain Xander Okerlund (Empire, Mich.). "Being down most of the second half, I don't think there was a point where any of us thought that we were going to lose. We just had to start turning it around and playing more of the way we have been playing all year."

The Lakers got off to a fast start in the game, winning the opening tip as point guard Devin Womack (Ypsilanti, Mich.) found Tyson Edmondson (Ypsilanti, Mich.) for a three on their first possession of the game, Womack's first of nine assists on the night.

LSSU continued to let it fly early with Womack and Hunter Soper (Lexington, Mich.) also hitting on threes, but they still found themselves trailing by four at the under-12 media timeout. The Lakers kept fighting, ultimately going on a run of their own with Kingsley Perkins (Ypsilanti, Mich.) putting in work on the inside to open up the opportunity for more threes from Omar Suleiman (Canton, Mich.) and Okerlund to put LSSU back in front 27-25. 

Okerlund would then hit one more three to end the half for the Lakers to notch the 1,000th point of his career, and keep his team within striking distance going into the break. 

"[Okerlund] is one of many of our guys that we almost have to kick these guys out of the gym for how many extra shots they get," Hettinga said. "He leads the way with that as that great senior leader that you want."

"I just stayed in the gym pretty much every day outside of practice," said Okerlund. "I knew that I put in enough work to produce on the court."

The Lakers opened up the second half strong with Perkins and Womack working inside before Edmondson connected on back-to-back threes to trim the lead to one, but the Cavaliers continued to respond, extending their lead out to a margin of 69-56.

Then, the madness of March proceeded to commence. First, Okerlund scored five unanswered points, including a clutch three from the wing. Then, Soper went on to hit back-to-back threes to cut the lead back down to one. Womack would then drive in for two to give his team their first lead since the score was 27-25 and forcing a Cavalier timeout. Walsh was able to hit on a layup to retake the lead, but Soper proved to be clutch on the other end, putting the Lakers right back in front with under two minutes to play.

The Lakers would then get the stops they needed to hold on and complete the comeback, dancing their way into the regional semifinals. 

Womack led the way offensively for the Lakers with 19 points while also dishing out 9 assists without turning the ball over a single time. 

"[Womack] was our leading scorer today, but at many points he turned the game around for us," Hettinga said. "He had nine assists and zero turnovers if you want to talk about a coach's dream. We had six turnovers in the first half but only eight at the end of the game, so hats off to our guys for taking care of the ball."

"I may have taken the most shots today, but it might not be that way tomorrow," Womack said. "We all trust each other to hit our shots. Today was my night to score the most points, but I would be just as happy if it was any of my teammates."

All five of the Lakers' starters ended the day in double figures. Perkins finished with 15 points and 7 rebounds while Okerlund, Soper, and Edmondson had 13, 12, and 11 points, respectively.

"When you go up against a team where all five guys can score the ball and you can't help off one guy particularly, that's a major challenge," Hettinga said. "We just kept fighting. They love each other, and they fight for each other. That's why we're here."

The Lakers will now turn their attention to the No. 7 seed Upper Iowa Peacocks, who also picked up an upset victory on the day, in the NCAA Midwest Regional Semifinals on Sunday, March 17 with tipoff scheduled for 5 p.m.