Inexperience shows down the stretch as Lakeland downs Tri-C in OT, 99-96

CLEVELAND – Ahead by eight points with less than seven minutes to play, the Cuyahoga Community College men’s basketball team ran into its biggest obstacle – inexperience – as the visiting Lakeland Lakers stormed back to tie the contest, then claim a 99-96 overtime victory on Wednesday night.

“The guys played hard and followed the game plan, but the inexperience got to us,” said head coach Aaron Nixon. “Essentially we have 13 guys who’ve never played college basketball (until this season) ’til now.”

For Lakeland, a combination of clutch defense with terrific shooting from sophomore Jaidon Lipscomb and freshman Elhadji Thaim sufficed for the OCCAC conference-leading Lakers to claim a victory.

“We got just enough defensive stops – just enough — at the end to win, and we needed every single one of them,” said Lakers Coach Terrell Eskridge afterwards.

Lipscomb led Lakeland with 24 points, including a clutch basket that put the visitors ahead to stay at 95-94 with 38.6 seconds left in overtime. Thaim added 22 more points.

Lakeland was behind, 80-72 with 6:58 remaining on the clock. It clawed back, taking an 85-84 lead with a Zach Wartley basket with 1:19 left in regulation. Wartley, a freshman, finished the game with 16 points.

Devin Held topped Cuyahoga Community College with 26 points. His two free throws with 36.7 seconds remaining gave the Triceratops an 86-85 lead, but Lakeland’s Landon Tillman tied the contest when he notched the second of two free throws with 24.7 seconds left. Tri-C’s Manny Hill misfired on last-second shot, a miss which sent the contest into overtime.

Hear comments from Tri-C head coach Aaron Nixon here:

Freshman Jaden Woods had 17 points and sophomore Landon Tillman added 15 more for the victors. Lipscomb and Tillman were on the Lakers team which finished fifth in the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association (NJCAA) national tournament in March 2022.

“Rebounding the ball, pushing with tempo, big-time shots, and at the end, just having heart,” is how Lipscomb described his team’s effort. “We had to play with a lot of emotion tonight.”

Thaim was succinct about the victory. “We kept our composure,” he added.

Hear comments Lakeland’s Jaiden Lipscomp and Elhadji Thaim here:


Tri-C took a 49-46 advantage into the locker room at halftime.  Lakeland consented to an extended halftime period so Cuyahoga Community College could pay tribute to one of the NBA’s all-time greats, Ben Wallace. Wallace began his basketball career at Tri-C in 1992-1994, and won an NBA title with the Detroit Pistons.

A key part of the Pistons’ 2003-2004 NBA championship team and four-time Defensive Player of the Year in the NBA, Wallace was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 2021. Dr. Michael Baston, Tri-C president, and others unveiled a banner containing Wallace’s name and number, 4, at the ceremony. Wallace had spent the entire afternoon at Cuyahoga Community College, meeting students, faculty and administrators prior to the game.

Alluding to the fact that he was not drafted by the NBA, Wallace paid tribute to Tri-C’s investment in him as a 17-year-old from Alabama. “Tri-C is the first school to put an undrafted player into the Hall of Fame,” Wallace said to cheering fans at the conclusion of the banner unveiling.

With its victory, Lakeland improves its Ohio Community College Athletic Conference mark to 12-1 and also has a 20-4 record for the season. The Lakers have won 11 of their last 12 games.  Tri-C drops to 22-5 and 10-3 in the OCCAC. The setback also ends an eight-game Triceratops winning streak.

Tri-C will resume action on Saturday at Terra State, while Lakeland can clinch the OCCAC with a victory at Hocking College, also on Saturday.


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