Lake players celebrate their 75-69 victory over Rossford.
The Blade/Lori King
MILLBURY — Lake built a seemingly commanding 25-point lead in the third quarter Tuesday night, then held off a late charge from Rossford in escaping with a 75-69 boys basketball victory in a showdown for first place in the Northern Buckeye Conference.
Junior point guard Connor Bowen led Lake (18-1, 11-1 NBC) with 30 points, 11 assists, five rebounds, and four steals.
PHOTO GALLERY: Lake holds off Rossford
Lake, Ohio’s eighth-ranked Division II team, also got 14 points from Cody Witt and 10 apiece from Todd Walters and Jacob Rettig. The Flyers need to win one of their two remaining games (Otsego and Woodmore) to clinch at least a share of the NBC title.
Rossford (12-5, 9-2 NBC) trailed 53-28 after a Jared Rettig 3-pointer for Lake with 6 minutes, 18 seconds left in the third quarter. But the Bulldogs pulled within 70-67 on a basket from Derek Mack with 1:31 left.
“The kids won the first half, and our coaches had to win the second half,” Lake coach Ryan Bowen said. “We almost blew it for them because we did some pretty dumb things in the second half.”
Triggering the comeback was senior guard Mack Miller, who scored 17 of his team-high 20 points in the final 14 minutes.
The Flyers regrouped and iced the game by hitting 5 of 8 free throws in the final minute.
Rossford also got 16 points from Mack, plus 13 points and 18 rebounds off the bench from senior forward Brian Burks.
Lake won both NBC meetings between the teams this season, including 67-65 in overtime on Jan. 10 at Rossford.
Lake started out on fire, bolting to a 26-16 lead after one quarter on the strength of five 3-pointers. The Flyers were 8 for 13 on 3-pointers in the first half, which closed with Lake on top 46-28.
“Our problem is we get out of our defensive rotations,” Rossford coach Brian Vorst said of Lake’s first-half flurry. “We didn’t stay within our game plan at all in the first half, and we did a much better job in the second half.”
No one was more productive in building this lead than Bowen, who scored 16 of his points in the final 10 minutes of the half. He had nine assists by the break.
“We came into the game energized on our home court,” Connor Bowen said. “We had a lot of fans here, and we came to play and have fun.
“We had that big lead and they started cutting it slowly and got it down to three. We were like, ‘Hey, let’s go guys. We’ve got to get into this game.’ We had to get back to scoring and doing what we’re good at.”
Bowen had hit a pair of baskets to open the half, and then Jared Rettig’s 3-pointer gave Lake its 25-point lead. Miller answered with a free throw, then a driving layup to begin the Rossford surge.
“You’re up 25 and then shots start to not fall and [Rossford] starts making some big shots,” coach Bowen said. “Before you know it, you’re in a game. But our kids stayed consistent, battled, and got a pretty tough win tonight.”