Lakers vastly improved

Senior guard Kassie Kleine dribbles up the court during the Lakers’ 75-66 loss to SUNY New Paltz on Feb. 5 at Max Ziel Gymnasium. The Lakers are currently 16-7. (Nick Graziano | The Oswegonian)
Senior guard Kassie Kleine dribbles up the court during the Lakers’ 75-66 loss to SUNY New Paltz on Feb. 5 at Max Ziel Gymnasium. The Lakers are currently 16-7. (Nick Graziano | The Oswegonian)

Quietly having its best season in six years, the Oswego State women’s basketball team has the third-best record in the SUNYAC, has clinched its twelfth-consecutive playoff birth and takes a two-game winning streak into the final weekend of the regular season.

The Lakers were 8-0 before winter break and were perfect in the first three games of conference play. Head coach Tracy Bruno’s team had arguably the best defense in the country, holding each of its eight opponents under 48 points.

They returned to action on Dec. 30 for a non-conference tournament in Washington D.C., where the Lakers dropped their first game of the season. Oswego State scored just 41 points while surrendering a then season-high 70 points to William Patterson. The Lakers would battle in overtime the following day against the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, returning to form on defense and claiming the victory, 63-51.

Oswego State returned to conference play the following week on Jan 8. against SUNY Oneonta, defeating the Red Dragons, 56-52. The Lakers hosted SUNY Fredonia and Buffalo State that weekend, a pair of conference games with contrasting results. The Fredonia game faired well for the Lakers, who used 33 combined points from seniors Kari Kipper and Meagan Stover to secure a 67-49 victory. Buffalo State was a different story for Oswego State, however, as the Bengals shut down the Lakers, 62-38.

After a six-day break, Oswego State returned to form in a Jan. 18 home game against The College at Brockport. Stover scored 26 points on 10-19 shooting, and the Lakers won, 60-50. The victory put the Lakers at 6-1 in SUNYAC play.

The following evening began the toughest two-game stretch of the regular season, as the Lakers had to play the conference’s top two teams – SUNY Geneseo and SUNY New Paltz – in successive games, on the road. The Lakers were not able to score enough points against Geneseo, losing 64-44. Against New Paltz, Oswego State held its own, holding the conference’s second-best offense to just 56 points. The Lakers would fall behind in the second half, however, and drop the game, 56-53.

The Lakers would rebound with two consecutive home wins. On Jan. 26, the Lakers defeated SUNY Cortland by 16 points behind an impressive defensive performance and a final score of 51-35. Oswego State hosted and beat Geneseo on Jan. 29 in a close affair, 59-54. Senior Evelyn Josbena turned out a great performance against the Blue Knights,

scoring 12 points and adding eight rebounds.

Oswego State did not fair as well on a weekend in Western New York, as they lost back-to-back games at Buffalo State and Fredonia. The Lakers lost to Buffalo State, 65-56, despite making eight three-pointers. Oswego State lost to Fredonia by a final of 65-58, moving its conference record to 8-5.

The conference’s top team, New Paltz, visited Oswego on Feb. 5, and despite a quality offensive performance by the Lakers, the Hawks held on, 75-66. Stover had 13 points and 14 rebounds in the loss. Days later, the Lakers would beat Cortland on the road, 47-34, the sixth game where the Lakers defense held an opponent under 40 points.

The Lakers won their Senior Day by defeating SUNY Oneonta on Tuesday in a nail-biter. The 47-46 final was due in large part to the quality defensive performances of both teams. The Lakers made nine three-pointers in the game, including five by senior Kassie Kleine.

Oswego State (16-7, 10-6) enters this weekend locked into a playoff spot and currently owns the No. 3 seed. The Lakers have not hosted a playoff game since Feb. 28, 2007. They play at Potsdam on Friday, who is winless in conference play. On Saturday, Oswego State takes on SUNY Plattsburgh, who is tied for fifth-place in the conference with Buffalo State and Cortland.