CLEVELAND Feb. 14 — Two of Northeast Ohio’s winningest college men’s basketball teams, Ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the Ohio Community College Athletic Conference (OCCAC) clash Wednesday when Lakeland Community College’s Lakers (19-4, 11-1 in the OCCAC) visit the Cuyahoga Community College Triceratops (22-4, 10-2 OCCAC mark).

Lakeland is also ranked 12th among all NJCAA Division II men’s college programs. A veteran program, the Lakers finished fifth in the nation in NJCAA DII with a 26-2 record last season, best ever in the school’s history. Their only post-season loss came to eventual national champions South Suburban.

Lakeland’s floor leader and one of the NJCAA’s top scorers is sophomore Jaidon Lipscomb, a 6’5” shooting guard/point guard averaging 23.4 points per game (ppg) and 6.7 rebounds per game (rpg). “They have one of the nation’s most efficient scorers in Lipscomb,” says Aaron Nixon, Tri-C’s coach, about the Lakers’ star player.

Other top student-athletes for Lakeland include freshman 6’7” forward Elhadji Thiam, 16.4 ppg and 8.2 rpg; 6’0” sophomore point guard Landon Tillman, 13.3 ppg and 6.4 rpg; and freshman 6’7” forward Chris Tackett, 5.1 rpg.

Lakeland averages 80.8 points per game, and is shooting 49.5% from the field for the season. They also are hitting more than 76% from the free throw line, and are bringing down 36.7 rebounds a contest. (See the “Showdown” chart below).

Tri-C enters the contest with an eight-game winning streak. Its last loss was to Lakeland by a 97-59 score on January 18, so the revenge factor will be in the Triceratops’ favor. Cuyahoga Community College is also unbeaten at home.

Devin Haid, a 6’5” wing freshman, leads the Triceratops with 19.6 ppg and 6.8 rpg. Next is Manny Hill, a 6’0” freshman point guard, with 13.8 ppg and 6.3 rpg. Tyishaw Smiley, a 6-7 freshman wing, averages 12.0 ppg and 7.3 rpg. Jordan Persad, 6’0” and the only sophomore on the team, has 9 ppg and 4.3 assists per game.

The Triceratops are averaging 88 points a game an 11.5-point differential over their opponents’ average of 76.5 points per contest. They also average 16 assists and more than 8 steals a game (See the “Showdown” chart below.)

Both teams will go deep into their bench and employ 9-10 players in each contest, and Wednesday’s clash between the OCCAC’s top two teams will be no exception.


“Lakeland is a very well-coached team with experienced players. To beat them, we must play tough on both ends of the floor, pay attention to details, and limit their second-chance points,” says Triceratops Coach Aaron Nixon.

“We can’t gamble defensively because they will make up pay if we do,” Nixon adds. “We must play mistake-free basketball.”

Terrell Eskridge, Lakeland’s coach, knows the Triceratops will be a challenge.

“We will have to play defense and match their energy. It’s hard to beat a team twice, so I know their coach will have them well prepared,” he says.

“Tri-C is a well-coached team that plays extremely hard,” Eskridge adds, complimenting his opposition. “Every time we step on the court we need to put out our best effort.”


The presence of Ben Wallace at the game, and Tri-C’s retirement of Wallace’s No. 4 jersey at halftime, will bring out a crowd and has the potential to help add intensity to the Triceratops team. Wallace played for two years at Tri-C. Later he went on to win an NBA Championship, was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year four times,  and was a multi-time All Star as well. Considered the greatest undrafted player in the history of the NBA, Wallace was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021.

“For me, Ben Wallace means a lot. He was one of the guys I looked up to when I was younger,” Nixon says. “Watching how he took challenges, played hard, and outworked his opponents stood out to me. He was just an ultra competitor.”

Ben Wallace. Photo courtesy Detroit Pistons’ NBA Website

Anthony Cipollone, Tri-C’s Executive Director of Athletics, echoes his coach’s sentiments.

“When you talk about grit and toughness, I think here is no better example of that then Ben Wallace,” says Cipollone. “I hope our guys realize that he didn’t get into the Hall of Fame for scoring 30 (points) a night, he got there because he was willing to do the things most don’t want to do: rebound, play great defense, and impact the game in some way other than scoring.”

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The men’s basketball game is part two of a women’s and men’s doubleheader. The first game, featuring Lakeland’s 19-2 and 8-0 OCCAC women’s team, vs. Tri-C’s team (9-13, 0-8 OCCAC), will begin at 5:30 p.m.  The men’s contest is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. The contests will be at the Metro Gymnasium, located at the eastern edge of the campus, 2900 Community College Avenue.

Websites with key statistics about this contest:

Lakeland    https://athletics.lakelandcc.edu/sports/mbkb/2022-23/teams/lakelandcommunitycollege

Tri-C           https://athletics.tri-c.edu/sports/mbkb/2022-23/teams/cuyahogacommunitycollege

OCCAC       https://www.occac.org/sports/mbkb/index About Ben Wallace night at Tri-C:  https://athletics.tri-c.edu/sports/mbkb/2022-23/releases/20230208ht48xb

Story by John Kerezy. Photos by Kerezy or from the Athletic Dept. websites of Lakeland Community College and Cuyahoga Community College

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