In a game highlighted by star players, College of Wooster junior Dan Fanelly shined just a bit brighter, leading the Fighting Scots past Oswego State, 66-65.
The game was decided on two free throws with four seconds by Fanelly, who finished with 26 points.
The Lakers inbounded immediately and drove the ball upcourt. Brian Sortino took the ball toward the basket, hoping to draw contact and get to the free throw line. The junior ended up falling just over half court as the buzzer sounded.
The crowd of 1,267, mostly Oswego State faithful, wanted a foul call on the visitors, as did Lakers’ head coach Jason Leone but none was given.
Sortino was the Lakers’ leading scorer with 23 points, despite going 5-for-19 shooting from the field. He was also 13-for-14 from the free throw line.
Fannelly’s 26 points led all scorers. The All-NCAC honorable mention shot 10-for-15 from the field and added five points from the charity stripe, including the two biggest ones of the game with four seconds left.
“We have to give Wooster a lot of credit,” Leone said. “They made more plays than we did in the end.”
Leone did not speak much on the no call as time expired, but did say it was irrelevant to the outcome.
One of the stars for the Lakers in the losing effort was Mark Candelario. The senior recorded a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds, including 7 on the offensive glass, in his final game for Oswego State. Candelario saw his playing time decrease during the team’s playoff run, due to the recent emergence of junior Mykelle Krecko, but took advantage of his opportunities on Friday night as he played 32 minutes.
“Mark is a player, through my 17 years of coaching, who has grown the most,” Leone said. “Not just as a player but mentally as well.”
Two players the Fighting Scots made it a point of emphasis not to leave open were Laker seniors Alex Rawa and Kyle Covley. The pair were lynchpins for the Lakers on offense throughout the season, but combined for only 10 points on Friday night, hitting just one 3-point basket.
A player who stepped up for Oswego State through Rawa and Covley’s struggles was junior transfer Demetrius Mitchell. The Syracuse-native added 13 points, including shooting 3-for-4 from 3-point range, in 34 minutes on the floor.
“Coach was just telling us that we should let the game to us,” Mitchell said.
Sortino picked up his fourth foul at the 7:14 mark of the second half and was forced to sit out for just over three minutes of game time. But, when he reentered with 3:53 left on the clock, and his team down five, his style of play did not change.
“My mentally is always to be aggressive,” Sortino said.
Despite the controversial ending and drama surrounding the game, the Lakers showed that they could compete with even the regulars of the NCAA Tournament, like College of Wooster making its 27th NCAA Tournament appearance.
This season, Oswego State made its deepest run in the NCAA Tournament, including picking up the program’s first NCAA Tournament win in four appearance. With four seniors graduating, all of them providing significant contributions this season, it is going to be a swift change in the offseason.
The Lakers will have with some questions, but they will forever look back at this season as something special, historical, and perhaps the start of something greater.
The Fighting Scots, however, advance to the Elite 8 and will face No. 4 Christopher Newport University on Saturday night in Max Ziel Gymnasium at Laker Hall. Tip off is 7 p.m.