Oswego State holds on in conference opener

Oswego State knocked off the SUNY Fredonia Blue Devils in Max Ziel Gymnasium at Laker Hall on Friday night to open up SUNYAC play, 63-62.

The Lakers came into the game knowing how important their first conference game was. The offense started with two baskets from sophomore Brian Sortino. They were looking to rely on their defense, which was ranked in the top 20 in Div. III going into the contest.

Oswego State forced an early timeout by the Blue Devils within the first four minutes of the contest, as the hosts led, 9-5. The Lakers went on a run and eventually led by nine, 16-5. Baskets were scored by freshman Ian Schupp, senior Rashawn Powell and junior Kyle Covley.

The Lakers offense that started off the first half so well soon slowed down, which allowed the Blue Devils to continue chipping away at the lead until it was a three-point game at 33-30 with about three minutes left before the half. A quick 4-0 run for the Lakers on baskets from Schupp and Sortino led to a timeout for the Blue Devils as the stretch gave the Lakers a little bit of breathing room.

The Lakers were able to maintain and play at a good tempo early on in the first half. However, SUNY Fredonia was able to score in spurts. The scoring was spread out throughout the first half for the Lakers as eight players scored in the opening 20 minutes. The Blue Devils also saw a number of players contribute on the scoreboard with six different scorers tallying points in the half.

The Lakers defense, which had held opponents to under 30 points in the first half in their first four games, had that streak broken by the Blue Devils. The Blue Devils had scored 32 by the half. The Lakers held the lead however, 37-32.

One of the big reasons the Lakers streak was broken was Blue Devils’ bigman Ian Helps. The freshman scored 10 points on four of six shooting to lead all scorers at the half. The Lakers led due in large part to the scoring, which was concentrated around Sortino and Powell throughout early parts of the season, starting to spread out.

The Lakers had eight men score in the first half. Schupp was the leading scorer with seven points, followed by Covley, Crockett and Sortino with six points a piece. Both teams shot 44.8 percent from the floor in the first half. Although the Lakers had the look of the better squad for most of the half, the game was close. The 44.8 percent clip which the Blue Devils shot in the first half was the highest percentage the Lakers have given up all season in the first half. On the flip side, it was also the highest the Lakers had shot in a first half this season, a sign of improvement for an offense that has had its fair share of problems in the early parts of the campaign.

The Lakers and Blue Devils started off the second half evenly. Both teams got on small scoring runs, but the Blue Devils were able to cut the deficit to one. The teams went back and forth for a bit longer as the visitors were able to bring the game to a tie, 46-46.

The teams both tried hard on both ends of the floor, perhaps due to the competitive nature of conference games. The Blue Devils gave the Lakers their biggest test of the season as far as defense was concerned. The two squads tried to mix up the looks to their attacks on the offensive end. The Lakers were able to build a 51-46 lead with 10:20 remaining in the game.

Powell had a dominating night on the boards, collecting 21 rebounds in the game. His usual points were not there as he scored just six points, but he was still able to be a big part of the team, even on an off night.

The scoring for the Lakers in Friday’s contest was more spread out. Head coach Jason Leone believed that the team was playing at a higher tempo and that it will lead to a more effective offense.

“We did tweak a couple of things offensively, we took some pressure off Brian and we’re trying to score earlier in our possessions,” Leone said. “The scoring picked up because I think we played faster, we got some easier shots.”

The Blue Devils would not go away as the second half continued. The game was 53-50 in the Lakers favor with 7:30 remaining in the contest.  Schupp would tallied a bucket to expand the Lakers’ advantage to five points with 7:13 remaining. However, the Blue Devils came back quickly with two baskets of their own, including a three-point shot to tie the game at 55 with just over five minutes remaining.

The big call came with under five minutes remaining when Sortino was called for charging. SUNY Fredonia came back down to take the lead. But, Covley tied it right back up at 57 as the game went down to the wire.

Dustin Pond, who had eight points on the night, said that the rebounding was important. He credited his teammates for helping decide the game, especially Powell.

“It’s a big win, the first win is always the biggest,” Pond said. “We needed to focus on rebounding, we needed to get that last rebound. Ray had a big game with 21 rebounds, so I think he contributed a lot to the game.”

With under two minutes left SUNY Fredonia knocked down a three-point shot to give it a three-point lead, 62-59. Sortino brought the Lakers back to within one point as he hit a tough mid-range shot with just over a minute to play.

Powell scored on a putback off a Sampson miss under the basket, making up for his offensive struggles in the contest He put the Lakers back up one with 24.1 seconds to play, 63-62.

So far in the season, the Lakers had already lost a close game in its final seconds on opening weekend to Elmira College in the Max Ziel Men’s Basketball Tournament. They were looking to avoid a similar result.

The Lakers fouled SUNY Fredonia on back to back inbounds to run the clock down. The Blue Devils had the ball with 14.8 seconds left and the score still 63-62.

The Blue Devils missed their shot and the Lakers rebounded. Yet, Sortino missed his one and one free throw opportunity on the other end. The Blue Devils got one last heave, but it clanked off the back of the rim as the Lakers survived.

Leone believed that Friday’s game was one the team can take valuable experience from. He knows that the SUNYAC is competitive and that this experience will be helpful.

“One thing that was  great learning lesson for the players was learning how close the games can be every night,” Leone said. “Probably every nine out of ten games could go either way with five minutes to go.”

Oswego State returns to action on Saturday against Buffalo State. Tip off is at 2 p.m. in Max Ziel Gymnasium at Laker Hall.