As the final seconds ticked off the clock on a monumental season, bittersweet emotions swept through Max Ziel Gym for SUNY Oswego basketball fans and players alike, Saturday.
Rhode Island College ended the Lakers (24-5) magical season by defeating the first-time NCAA Tournament participant 71-63 on their home court. The Anchormen (21-7) will advance to the "Sweet 16" in their fifth straight tournament appearance.
Rhode Island played outstanding team defense all game, holding SUNYAC Player of the Year, Chad Burridge to one basket in the first half and 14 points total. The Anchormen also rode waves of hot shooting as they shot an impressive; 42.9 percent from beyond the arch and 55.3 percent from the floor overall.
Rhode Island displayed the type of talent and experience that would be expected of a team that has made five straight tournament appearances, even without First-team Little East Conference center and leading scorer Mike Akinrola. "I have no idea how, what or when it happened," said Anchormen Coach, Bob Walsh "But he woke up at four in the morning and his foot was killing him."
Throughout the first half, the Lakers hung with the high paced Anchormen attack lead by Mason Choice who had 17 points and 4 assists. Their outside presence however, was simply nonexistent shooting; 18.2 percent from the 3-point line.
The Lakers went into halftime with only a 31-29 deficit to overcome. Despite Oswego’s best efforts, Rhode Island came out firing when Nick Manson hit two of his three, 3-pointers in the first two minutes. The Anchormen hit 75 percent of their second half 3-pointers and continued to dominate the paint on the defensive side of the ball with; 19 defensive rebounds and 27 in total for the game.
Sophomore forward, Hayden Ward led the Lakers with a season-high 21 points and 9 rebounds, but Oswego only shot 36.5 percent from the floor as a team. "I thought they were a great defensive team," said Lakers Coach, Adam Stockwell "They’ve done that all year."
Along with Burridge and Ward, sophomore Chris Gilkes also helped to spark a struggling Lakers offense totaling; 13 points and 6 rebounds. "We needed to be just a little bit better than we were in the second half," said, Coach Stockwell "Two or three possessions made the difference in the game."
It’s never easy for a team to finish a season without accomplishing the goals it set out to achieve, but fortunately for the Lakers all but one player will return next season, "This [loss] will definitely be in the back of our minds in the off-season and going into next year," Ward said.
Jose Uribe, the sole senior for this Oswego hoops team finished his four year career with; 89 games played, 45 games started, 395 points, 39.8 shooting percentage and shot 36.6 from the 3-point line. Against Rhode Island he hit two big 3-pointers in what would prove to be his last points as a Laker, his leadership and experience will be missed.