By Chris Schmidbauer, Sports Information Director
Toledo, OH -- After a week off, the Owens Express staved off a second half comeback to hold on for a 93-88 win over Lakeland on Wednesday night.
Things got off to a good start for the Express. Owens had the lead for all but 2:15 of the first half. They took their first lead at 8-6 with 17:46 to play in the first and would push their lead to as much as 18 points. Marquevious Wilson would hit a pair of free throws at the 1:15 mark of the first half to give Owens a 52-34 lead right before the break. Lakeland would hit a three with six seconds to go in the game's opening twenty minutes, and the Express would head to the locker room with a 54-39 lead.
While Owens had the game well in control during the first half, the second half was a much different story. Owens would reclaim their 18 point lead just 1:45 into the second half on a Jamiri Bennett three. Over the next two minutes, the Lakers would blitz Owens on a 10-1 run to cut the lead for the Express to just nine points. The Lakers used a few turnovers and opportunities at the foul line to claw their way back into the game.
Owens would regain their form somewhat though. A Gabe Simpson three and a steal and score would push the Express lead back to 12 points at the 14:06 mark of the second half. Not to be outdone, Marquevious Wilson would get a steal and take it coast to coast for the layup to give the Express a 14 point lead just 14 seconds later.
The Express and Lakers would trade baskets for the next seven minutes. Owens would lead by as much as 15 points but the Lakers kept within distance. They were able to trim the Express lead to just single digit a few times over the seven minute span.
At the 6:57 mark of the second half, a Jeramie Burge three would cut Owens's lead to 79-72 and the race to the finish was on. The three was the start of a 10-0 run by Lakeland, which was capped off by a Trey Granger layup to tie the score at 79 all with 5:05 remaining in the game.
Owens would retake the lead on a Simpson layup just 15 seconds later, and a three by the Warren, OH native over a minute later gave the Express a five point lead at 84-79 with 3:53 to play. Burge and the Lakers would answer back, however, trimming the lead to just one at 87-86 with 2:07 to play on a jumper from Burge.
On the ensuing possession, Gabe Simpson would miss a layup for Owens but a crucial offensive rebound gave the Express a fresh shot clock. Wilson would find freshman Dru Pettigrew for a deep three to put Owens back up by four points at 90-86 with just 1:26 to play.
Lakeland's Aaron Pate would sink a pair of free throws to cut the lead to just two for the Express. But Simpson would get layup after a steal by Pettigrew with 13 seconds left to give the Express a 92-88 lead. Simpson would split a pair of free throws with six seconds left to complete the five point victory for Owens.
Simpson would finish with a game high 28 points on 11-18 shooting. He was one of four Owens players in double figures on the evening. The freshman would also finish with seven rebounds and tied for the team high in assists with four.
Wilson scored 18 points on 6-13 shooting. He had a team high eight rebounds and three assists in 36 minutes of play. Rylan Davis led the charge off the bench for the Express. The Los Angeles native had 12 points on 4-5 shooting and he was a perfect 3-3 from the foul line. He also collected six boards in his 16 minutes on the floor.
Pettigrew followed up his 20 point performance against Edison State with 10 points off the bench. He was a perfect 3-3 from the floor and 2-2 from beyond the arc. He also had two steals on the evening.
The Lakers were led in scoring by Jeramie Burge. He finished with 22 points on 8-19 shooting before fouling out. Aaron Pate was not far behind, scoring 20 points on 6-9 shooting from the field. Trey Granger (19 points) and Chandler Fointno (16 points, 7 assists) also scored in double figures for the Lakers.
With the win, Owens improved to 18-7 and 12-2 in the OCCAC. They are currently a game and a half behind Cuyahoga for first place in the conference with two games left to play. Lakeland fell to 4-18 overall and 3-10 in the OCCAC.
The win marks the eleventh win in a row for Coach Dennis Springs and company. This is the program's longest winning streak since the 2005-2006 season when the Express won 14 games in a row. The current team has a chance to match that streak, if they are able to win the their final two games of the regular season and win one game during the District tournament.
Owens will hit the road for the final time during the 2017-2018 season. They will travel to Columbus State to take on the Cougars on Saturday afternoon. The Express won the first meeting back on January 20th by a final of 84-68. That victory represented the third victory in the team's current 11 game win streak. Tip off from the state's capital is scheduled for 3:00 PM.