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Justin Ward (Jr.-Wisconsin Dells, Wis.) scored 25 points and had several big baskets late and the Lakeland College men's basketball team weathered a big comeback by Martin Luther (Minn.) College for a 98-93 win Friday night at Woltzen Gymnasium.
The Knights came back from a 20-point deficit in the second half, eventually taking a four-point lead before the Muskies recovered down the stretch. Lakeland snapped a brief two-game losing streak and improved to 8-2, while Martin Luther, a member of the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference, dropped to 1-10.
Ward helped save Lakeland from a discouraging loss by scoring nine straight points for the Muskies late in the game. He hit two free throws with 2:14 left to make it 87-85, scored on a putback dunk, hit a short baseline jumper, and then dunked on a fastbreak feed from Joey Burris (So.-Kiel, Wis.) and was fouled, making the free throw for a 93-88 lead with 35.5 seconds left in the game.
The Muskies had to mount a late comeback after the Knights conducted a furious rally in the game's second half, led by point guard Kaleb Buch. The 5-foot-8 Manitowoc native came in averaging 7.6 points per game but scored 28 points in front of a gathering including many family and friends.
Lakeland led 53-39 at halftime after shooting 54.3% in the first half, and the Muskies scored six quick points after halftime to take a 59-39 lead with 19:00 left in the game. Buch scored 23 of his points in the second half, though, and Martin Luther roared back into contention, taking a 77-76 lead when Buch found Luke Rothe for a layup with 6:51 left in the game.
MLC eventually went ahead 82-78 after a three-pointer by Buch with five minutes left in the game, but the Muskies finally fought back. Kurt Jansen (So.-Wrightstown, Wis.) hit a three-pointer and Burris scored on a fastbreak layup to put Lakeland up 83-82. Buch hit another three to put the Knights ahead again, but the Muskies would score six straight points, including four from Ward, in taking the lead for good.
Ward shot 8-of-14 from the field and 8-of-9 from the free throw line, and also had seven rebounds and four blocked shots. Jake Schwarz (Sr.-Sheboygan, Wis.) added 23 points and 10 rebounds and Burris also chipped in 19 points. Lakeland shot 48.5% for the game (33-of-68), including 9-of-23 from three-point range, and also made 23 of 30 from the foul line (76.7%).
Buch shot 11-for-16 and also had 10 rebounds and six assists. Galen Holzhueter added 18 points for the Knights, who shot 51.2% in the second half (22-of-43) and 46.3% for the game (37-of-80).
The Muskies now have a break until Dec. 30, when they travel to St. Paul, Minn., to face Macalester (Minn.) College.