KIRTLAND - Joe Retic II poured in 26 points to help the Express men's basketball team win a crucial matchup on the road over No. 8 Lakeland Community College 71-69 tonight.
With James Kelly on the bench with four fouls for much of the second half, Retic shot 6-for-9 from the field in the half for 13 points. For the game, he shot 11-for-21 from the field, 2-for-5 from 3-point range and 2-for-4 from the foul line while adding eight rebounds and and a team-high seven assists.
Despite two missed free throws late, Retic made crucial plays down the stretch for the Express. With 5:20 left, the Express led by two. Retic proceeded to hit a lay-up, a jumper and a 3-pointer in transition to give the Express a 69-63 lead with 3:31 left.
A lay-up from Kelly later gave the Express a 71-65 lead with 1:58 left. Lakeland's Richard Smith and Deran Banton then threw down back-to-back dunks to pull the Lakers within two with 44 seconds left.
During that stretch, the Express had a turnover and missed four free throws to give Lakeland a chance with 1.2 seconds left. They weren't able to get off a shot as time expired, though, as the Express moved into a tie for first place with Lakeland.
The win for the Express snapped a 13 game winning streak for Lakeland, who hadn't dropped a game since Dec. 15. They fell to 20-5 overall and 8-1 in the OCCAC.
Kelly was only able to play 26 minutes due to picking up his fourth foul with just under 15 minutes left in the second half. Despite that, he finished with 15 points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks. He went 7-for-16 from the field.
Kelly hit the game's opening shot, a 3-pointer, and scored the final two points for the Express. He had his streak of eight consecutive double-doubles snapped tonight.
Two other players that came up big for the Express throughout the night were Tony Boykins and Chris Wilson. Boykins scored 16 points, while Wilson had a team-high 11 rebounds off the bench.
Franklin Lindsey was the third Express player to finish in double figures in rebounds with 10.
The starting lineup for the Express handled the majority of offensive production for the Express as they only picked up five points off the bench. Despite that, the bench (thanks in large part to Wilson) helped the Express outrebound Lakeland 58-45 overall and 25-20 on the offensive glass.
Lakeland's defensive pressure helped them stay alive in the second half as they forced 23 Express turnovers on 14 steals. Meanwhile, Lakeland only committed 16 turnovers on eight Express steals.
Lakeland's Richard Smith was a huge presence throughout the game to keep his team in it. The sophomore center nearly had a triple-double with 16 points, 12 rebounds and nine blocks. He finished 7-for-14 from the field.
Aside from him, Martell Medley added 14 points and a team-high six steals, while Daishon Robinson had 13 points and Chaz Rollins had 11 points and seven rebounds.
As a team, the Express shot 30-for-80 (37.5 percent) from the field, 5-for-20 from 3-point range and 6-for-14 from the foul line. Meanwhile, Lakeland finished 27-for-77 (35.1 percent) overall, 4-for-15 from 3-point range and 11-for-19 from the foul line.