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A huge second half comeback fell short as the Lakeland College men's basketball team fell to Edgewood, 76-70, in the semifinals of the Lake Michigan Conference Tournament.
The top-seeded Muskies, who drop to 21-6, trailed 40-27 at the half and were down by as many as 17 in the second half before battling back to tie the game at 59 on a 3-pointer by sophomore Kris Saiberlich with 4:38 left.
But the Muskies could never grab the lead, and Edgewood senior Seth Cooper, last season's LMC Player of the Year, took over at the foul line, sinking 8 of 10 down the stretch to finish with 26 points.
"The second half we played the way we were capable of," said Lakeland head coach Gary Grzesk. "The first half we dug ourselves such a huge hole, and we expended so much energy just to get back in the game that when we did get back in it we didn't have enough to get over the top."
Fourth-seeded Edgewood (15-11) advances to Saturday's LMC Tournament Championship game at 2 p.m. at No. 3 Wisconsin Lutheran, a winner over No. 7 Marian in Thursday's other semifinal. The winner advances to the NCAA Division III National Tournament.
Trailing 48-31 with 15:45 left in the second half, Lakeland cut the lead to 12 in less than a minute thanks to freshman Matt Rogers sinking two free throws and Saiberlich making three more free throws after Edgewood's Chris Demarco fouled him on a 3-point try.
Lakeland senior Nick Howard, who has been nursing an ankle injury the past two weeks, scored his only two points of the game on a lay-up with 8:17 remaining to pull the Muskies to within three at 54-51.
"Nick (Howard) hasn't been able to play or go at full strength for almost two weeks as he was playing on a bad ankle," said Grzesk. "I thought he really gutted it out."
Lakeland senior Germayne James led the way for the Muskies with 26 points, dishing four assists and grabbing seven boards. Two other Muskies scored in double figures as Saiberlich had 15 and Rogers added 12.
"What can you say about Germayne?" asked Grzesk. "I think he showed a lot of heart and showed why he is one of the best players in the conference, if not the region, because he just about willed our team back into this game."
Lakeland struggled shooting as they made just 33 percent in the first half and 35 percent on the night. Edgewood raced out to an early lead thanks to red-hot 15-24 shooting (63 percent) in the first half. The Eagles shot 55 percent for the game.
"It is hard now because the loss is so fresh in your mind," said Grzesk. "But I think when the kids and coaching staff look back on the year, I am sure they will appreciate the season that they had and how well and consistent they played all year."