ERIE – The Grand Rapids Drive (23-20) continued their run as one of the hottest teams in the league on Friday night as they squeaked out a 111-110 win over the Erie BayHawks (19-23) on the road. It was the Drive’s tenth win in their last 12 games, and their fourth in a row as they fight with the Windy City Bulls for the Central Division lead.
The Grand Rapids roster was different Friday than their last several lineups with Khyri Thomas and Svi Mykhailiuk joining the team on assignment from the Detroit Pistons. They did not miss a beat with them, as Thomas scored 21 points and Mykhailiuk had 15. Isaiah Whitehead scored 23 off the bench for Grand Rapids, including two clutch free throws to give the Drive a four-point lead in the final seconds, and Speedy Smith notched 13 points, eight assists and four steals. Todd Withers’ nine rebounds were a team high.
Jordan Sibert finished with 23 points and hit five threes to lead Erie. Cat Barber and Jaylen Morris backed him up by each recording double-doubles, Barber with 18 points and 10 assists and Morris with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Sanjay Lumpkin, Jeremy Hollowell and Craig Sword all scored 14 points as well, with Sword also recording eight assists and Hollowell eight rebounds.
Grand Rapids scored the opening bucket, but did not lead again until the third quarter as the BayHawks led by as many as 14 in the first half. The Drive rallied back in the third to take control of the game, and appeared to have it locked up with a strong start to the fourth quarter. But the BayHawks mounted an admirable comeback in the final minutes, forcing the game down to the wire and ultimately losing by just one. Isaiah Whitehead drawing a foul and hitting two free throws with eight seconds remaining and the Drive leading by two served as the key play that kept the win in Grand Rapids’ hands.
The BayHawks did significantly better than the Drive both from the free-throw line and from three-point range, as the Drive hit just eight threes at a 28 percent clip and shot 57 percent from the line. Grand Rapids instead relied on attacking the paint, allowing them to shoot 48 percent from the floor as a team despite their struggles from deep. They also rebounded well, securing 51 and allowing just eight offensive rebounds.