SHEBOYGAN, Wis. - The Wisconsin Lutheran College men's basketball team battled back from a 13-point first-half deficit and scored the final nine points of the game to hand Lakeland its first home loss of the season in an 87-76 victory Wednesday night at Woltzen Gymnasium.
The win marked the Warriors' third straight victory over the Muskies and ended a two-game losing streak at Lakeland, where WLC had last beaten the Muskies January 31, 2009. WLC also picked up its first back-to-back wins since November 19-21.
Lakeland (16-5, 12-4 NACC) entered the game with a 10-0 home record and seized control early by opening the contest on a 9-0 run in the first 2:01 of action. Justin Ward's three-point play extended the Muskies' lead to 19-6 with 14:48 to play in the opening period. Taylor Chladek (West Allis, Wis./Nathan Hale) scored 10 points during a 20-5 run by WLC (7-13, 5-11 NACC) over the next 4:27 to give the Warriors a 26-24 lead with 10:21 remaining in the half. The teams exchanged leads the rest of the half and were tied 48-48 at halftime.
Both teams came out firing in the first half, as Lakeland shot 58.3 percent (21-of-36) and WLC shot 56.8 percent (21-of-37). Chladek led the Warriors with 12 first-half points while hitting 2-of-4 from beyond the arc. Ward contributed 12 in the first half for the Muskies.
Despite a tightly-contested second half, Lakeland held the lead for just 38 seconds in the closing period when it took a brief 66-65 edge with 10:40 to play. Ward's three-pointer with 4:55 remaining cut the Warriors' lead to 78-76, but WLC hit 6-of-8 free throws and used a clutch three-pointer from DJ Escamilla (Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead) to end the game on a 9-0 run. The Warriors out-shot the Muskies 46-39 percent and out-rebounded them 19-11 in the final frame.
Kyle Stelse (Jefferson, Wis./Lakeside Lutheran) led the Warriors with 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds. Escamilla scored 17, with 15 of those coming in the second half. Chladek and Jake Jarnigo (Lake Mills, Wis./Wisconsin Lutheran) pitched in with 12 points apiece and Christian Walz (Waukesha, Wis./West) rounded out WLC's five double-figure scorers with 10.
Ward notched game highs with 27 points and 11 rebounds. James Oshkeshequoam added 11 and Joey Burris scored 10 for Lakeland.
WLC controlled the glass 38-27 and shot 52.3 percent, its second-best mark of the season. The Warriors also knocked down 47.4 percent (9-of-19) from long distance.
Wisconsin Lutheran returns to action Saturday when it hosts Concordia Chicago (5-15, 2-13 NACC) at 2 p.m. at the Recreation Complex. Live audio, stats, and video will be available for the game at wlcsports.com.