In a game that featured offensive struggles early on, the Lakers featured in a close contest with the Elmira College Soaring Eagles. As the game came down to the wire, the Soaring Eagles’ Tyler Dibble hit a layup as time expired to knock off the Lakers, 57-56.
Lakers’ head coach Jason Leone understands that teaching his team how to pull out tight games can take time, but knows what must be worked on to get the job done going forward.
“At the beginning of every season learning how to close teams out seems to be a recurring challenge for a lot of coaches,” Leone said. “Part of it is conditioning, part of it mental toughness. We just let one get away, but again, Elmira deserves the credit for that.”
Both teams were missing shots at the rim and turning the ball over at the start. Oswego State senior Rashawn Powell tried to establish himself early on scoring four points.
The Lakers went on an 8-0 run to take a 14-8 lead and forced the Soaring Eagles to take a timeout.
With 6:21 left in the first half, Oswego State still found itself in a tight, low scoring game, trailing 15-14.
The Lakers looked frustrated at Elmira’s tough defense, and the shouting from the Soaring Eagle’s bench did not help either.
Covley knocked down a three to cut the lead to one in favor of the Soaring Eagles, following a 9-0 run by the visitors. Elmira took advantage of Oswego State’s inability to grab rebounds on the defensive glass and capitalized on second chance baskets throughout the half.
Covley felt the Lakers can take this as a valuable experience, as they still have some things they want to perfect so they can accomplish their goals this year.
“Rebounding, playing hard, getting the 50-50 balls,” Covley said. “We played together, I thought we moved the ball pretty, both teams were playing hard, they are good defensive team. It was a good learning experience for us, I think we’ll take a lot from it. We need to learn how to finish the game and put them out.”
With two minutes left in the first half, Elmira led by four on a three-pointer by Hayden Harkins. The Lakers frustrations continued, as they could not cut into the Soaring Eagle lead.
Oswego State kept lowering its deficit to one with Rashawn Powell’s basket plus a free throw and Dustin Pond’s put back right before the half. The home side entered the half behind by one, 25-24.
Powell led all Laker scorers in the first 20 minutes with nine points on four of six shooting from the floor. Other scorers for the Lakers in the first were sophomores Dustin Pond and Walter Sampson and junior Kyle Covley.
Covley went on a small scoring run early on in the second half to put the Lakers ahead and Brian Sortino added a few baskets as well as their lead reach three points, 32-29.
The Soaring Eagles would put up a fight, however. Tying the game at 32 with close to 15 minutes left in the 2nd half. The Lakers scored 5 straight off baskets from Dustin Pond, a three pointer, and Elijah McLaurin. The lead was 37-32 with 12:48 left in the game.
Oswego State found its offensive stroke in the second half with Mark Candelario contributing six points, while Covley and Sortino continued to provide an offensive spark.
Pond, a sophomore transfer, was an influence throughout the game with 13 points, including three field goals from behind the arc. His debut did not go as he planned and he thinks the team needs to bring the same intensity it does in practice, in order to succeed.
“My first game here wasn’t what I expected. We just weren’t ready to go today, that not how we play in practice, and it really shouldn’t happen again,” Pond said. “Elmira definitely wanted it more tonight, they were all over the floor, they got every single 50-50 ball that you can think of.”
Although the Lakers were stronger in the second, they still allowed the Soaring Eagles to hang around. Elmira’s Neil Randolph scored, plus a free throw, on back to back possessions to put the Soaring Eagles in prime position to tie the game.
The visitors eventually took the lead for a short while and then went on a 16-2 run late in the game to push it down to the game’s closing minutes.
Sortino made a layup with just over a minute remaining. But, the Soaring Eagles got the ball for the final possession of the contest.
The Lakers forced their opponent to take two timeouts in the final minute, the second one with just 3.2 seconds remaining. Yet, the play drawn up in the huddle helped Elmira College secure the win.
Leone recognized that the game was just one in the greater scheme of the season and Oswego State needs to get past it, which he knows they will with another game tomorrow.
“It’s one game out of 25, we’re gonna get better, we have to work through this,” Leone said. “At the end of the day you’re not going to win games giving teams extra opportunities and putting them at the foul line at key times. There’s some things you have to do to close teams out. We didn’t do them, but tomorrow we get to play again, so we’re not gonna have time to feel sorry for ourselves.”
Oswego State returns to action on the final day of the Max Ziel Men’s Basketball Tournament on Sunday night against Hartwick College. Tip off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.