Lakers stay hot in winter

Senior forward Hayden Ward battles a defender during the Lakers’ 74-57 victory over SUNY New Paltz on Tuesday, Feb. 5 at Max Ziel Gymnasium. (Nick Graziano | The Oswegonian)
Senior forward Hayden Ward battles a defender during the Lakers’ 74-57 victory over SUNY New Paltz on Tuesday, Feb. 5 at Max Ziel Gymnasium. (Nick Graziano | The Oswegonian)

A holiday and a new year has came and gone for the Oswego State men’s basketball team. When Oswego State students packed up and left for winter break, the team was 6-1. After 10 hard fought, empty games, when those students came back from the holiday break, the Lakers were 13-4.

The team started off the vacation on the Friday of finals week on Dec. 14, when it dominated a much weaker Cazenovia team, 73-57. Senior Sean Michele was the talk of the contest, netting a season-high 17 points. He also had six assists as Oswego State connected as a team for 12 three-pointers. The Lakers had some time off for the Christmas holiday and did not play again until Jan. 4.

In the first game of 2013, Oswego State did not lose its hot streak in defeating a tough St. Lawrence team 62-52. The Lakers dominated most of the game, at one point leading by 19 points. St. Lawrence was able to close the gap and make Oswego make free throws at the end to seal the win. Senior star Hayden Ward led the Lakers with 22 points and seven rebounds, as fellow senior Chris Gilkes put in 13 for the home team.

The team would get right back at it the next day when the Lakers hosted RIT. In a game of two halves, Oswego State held on against the Tigers, winning 63-59. Ward again led all scorers with 21 points, extending his streak of 20 or more points to seven games. Fellow senior Brendon Nollet also chipped in with 11 points and seven rebounds as the Lakers shot 48 percent from the field, and outscored RIT’s bench, 20-2.

On that next Tuesday, Jan. 8, the Lakers’ six-game winning streak would come to an end on the road against SUNY Oneonta. The Red Dragons shot 53 percent from the field, stunning the Lakers, 67-57. Oswego State did show some bright spots as Gilkes tied his then-career-high scoring mark with 23 points. SUNY Oneonta is last in the SUNYAC, and delivered a loss the Lakers were not expecting.

“This was the worst loss of the break,” Ward said. “We did not play well.”

Oswego State would shake off the conference loss, as the Lakers dominated SUNY Fredonia at home on Jan. 11, 74-56. Ward led all scorers with 15 points, but this game marked the birth of rising star Kyle Covley. The freshman saw limited minutes throughout the first games of the season but looked to have found his comfort zone scoring 14 points.

“Even though I am a freshman, I feel that there is a great importance of staying composed and playing loose,” Covley said. “The high level of competition I have been experiencing this season will definitely help me in the future.”

The next night, the Lakers would continue their winning ways, knocking off SUNYAC foe Buffalo State, 79-69. Gilkes took over, setting a new career-high with 24 points to lead the Lakers. Ward also chipped in with 23 points and 11 rebounds, notching his fourth double-double of the season.

Ward said the Lakers bonded with each other over the break, which has helped them become better players and teammates.

“It gets lonely,” Ward said. “It is just you and the team, so we used it to get close and become better.”

“Over break having a lot of free time allowed me to stay after practice and work on my shot,” Covley said.

The Lakers returned to action on Friday, Jan. 18, as they hosted The College at Brockport. With five players scoring more than 10 points, Oswego State was able to hold off the Golden Eagles, 76-68. Gilkes, Ward, Michele, transfer Daniel Ross and Covley all scored in double figures.

The next night, the Lakers would see a different outcome as they traveled to SUNY Geneseo and lost, 61-51. Oswego State struggled to get anything going offensively in the SUNYAC loss. Ward scored 15 points and Gilkes tallied 14, making the two of them the only Lakers in double digits for the game. Deep into the season, teams began to key in on Ward.

“I was seeing a lot of double and triple teams,” Ward said. “Especially when teams get to scout you a lot.”

The Lakers would stay on the road to take on SUNY New Paltz, battling to a 80-70 win. Covley was the driving force, as he netted 29 points off of seven three-pointers.

“The motivation from my coaches pushed me to hold myself to a higher standard than previous years,” Covley said. “New Paltz was a great experience and made me feel like a great contribution to the team.”

Covley did not just make his coaches proud with his high level of play, but his upperclassmen teammates were also pleased.

“Kyle has been playing well for us lately,” Ward said. “He is capitalizing on opportunities.”

Rounding out the long 10-game winter break, Oswego State would host the top team in the SUNYAC in SUNY Cortland on Saturday January 26. It was a game of runs, and Cortland went on the last one, winning 75-69. Cortland’s guard play was too much for the Lakers to contain, as they dropped a tough SUNYAC loss. Oswego State had three players score at least 15 points, as Ward netted 15 and Gilkes and Ross both dropped 17 points.

As classes are back in session and with the SUNYAC being arguably the most competitive it has ever been, the Oswego State men’s basketball team sits at 17-6 and 10-6 in the conference. Oswego State has two games left on the regular season schedule, all of them being SUNYAC opponents. Any seed is up for grabs, making the team’s goal of winning a SUNYAC championship very plausible.

Freshman guard Kyle Covley tries to go around a defender in the Lakers’ 74-57 win over New Paltz. (Nick Graziano | The Oswegonian)
Freshman guard Kyle Covley tries to go around a defender in the Lakers’ 74-57 win over New Paltz. (Nick Graziano | The Oswegonian)