Oswego State Lakers men’s basketball came up victorious in a critical weekend in the SUNYAC playoff race.
A night after officially clinching a playoff spot in a 69-59 victory over Buffalo State, the Lakers defeated SUNY Fredonia Saturday afternoon in a 76-73 thriller at Max Ziel Gymnasium.
Seniors Ian Schupp and Jamir Ferebee were sensational in the contest. Schupp totaled 25 points, draining three 3-pointers and went 4-4 from the charity stripe. It was an all-around effort for the senior guard who also grabbed seven rebounds and registered three steals.
“Ian Schupp was unbelievable tonight,” head coach Jason Leone said. “He’s been struggling lately, I’m really happy for him. He did everything tonight.”
After an excellent first half, Ferebee finished with 18 points, six rebounds and dished out three assists.
“It feels great,” said Ferebee, who was limited last weekend after battling the flu. “Obviously we’re going into final weekend. So just to get back in rhythm after last weekend, it feels good.”
Lakers were off to a fast start, leading 9-2 just three minutes into the game. The way the rest of the first half went was a clear sign of what kind of battle we were going to witness as both team’s traded buckets and runs.
The Lakers bright spot later in the first half was a 31-23 lead over Fredonia with 7:00 remaining as Schupp and Ferebee were heating up offensively. As Fredonia was putting together a run, Lakers center Tyler Pierre sent back a monster block back toward the Fredonia campus, but the Blue Devils were able to come up with a long rebound and drain a 3-pointer by De-Quan Smith to make it a 31-30 game.
SUNY Fredonia took their first lead of the game with over a minute left in the first half and took that lead to the break leading 42-39.
“Fredonia deserves a lot of credit,” Leone said. “I thought they played a really-really good game. They didn’t turn the ball over which they do a lot of times. They were very good finding the open man with the ball movement and they made open shots.”
Fredonia kept it up for much of the second half, doing so in a balanced attack, similar to what we have seen from the Lakers all season. They had six players score between 9-12 points, their leading scorer being Ian Helps, who also had four assists.
The Blue Devils led by nine points at one point and were up again by eight points near the midpoint of the second half. Their bench was active as well and was noticed for trying to heckle some of the Laker players on the court.
That would only add to the intensity of the game, both teams were in the bonus with seven minutes remaining, which ended up in the Lakers’ favor as they had 23 attempts from the line to Fredonia’s 12 for the game.
Pierre, who finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, got the Lakers going with a layup to cut their deficit to 57-51.
“You just got to be strong at the ball,” Pierre said. “Make sure you’re not turning it over, something coach puts in our head throughout practice, just be strong at the ball and finish layups.”
Oswego State would start mounting their comeback and it was that kind of night for Schupp, who had 15 points in the second half. Trailing 66-65 at the three-minute mark, Schupp buried a 3-pointer to put them back ahead 68-66 and would lead to a Fredonia timeout.
The Laker offensive attack baton would next be passed to Josh Ivey, who would score the Lakers next three points to go up 71-70 with 1:19 remaining as both teams continued to trade buckets.
One of Schupp’s big clutch plays came seconds later, as he quickly stole the ball from Blue Devils’ Jackson Kay and dished to Liam Sanborn on the fast-break. Sanborn was fouled hard and converted one of two free throws at the line to give the Lakers a 72-70 lead with 1:01 remaining.
As Leone mentioned before, Fredonia’s ball movement was on point and continued the next 13 seconds as Dante Williams regained Fredonia’s lead, 73-72, with a wide-open 3-pointer in the corner.
Not being able to convert a bucket the next possession, the Lakers got another opportunity due to a missed free throw on the one and one for Fredonia.
15 seconds left in the game, the Lakers put together a play out of the timeout that would end up breaking down. Driving to the bucket in desperation, Ferebee would find an open Pierre in the post, who put home a layup contested in traffic to give the Lakers the lead 74-73 with 2.9 seconds left.
“I was just waiting for [Ferebee] to give it to me and finish the bucket,” Pierre said.
Being on the end of winning of a hail mary pass and score this season, the Lakers wanted to prepare themselves defensively as a timeout was called on each side before the next play would happen.
“We wanted to take a look at their alignment,” Leone said. “We took extra timeouts to communicate over and over again and give the guys their assignments.”
As Justin Tapper heaved the long full court pass, acting as a defensive back in football, Schupp made another big play by intercepting the ball in mid-air and drew the foul as he was landing to the ground.
“Definitely felt productive for sure,” Schupp said. “I’m not looking to just be a scorer.”
Schupp would add some insurance with two free throws, which would be enough as Fredonia’s half court attempt would not fall and gave the Lakers a 76-73 victory.
“It was great. The guys did great all weekend,” Leone said. “To our guys credit, we hung in there. [Fredonia] made some runs at us, they made some big shots. We were down one with less than a minute to go and we really executed.”
As No. 5 in SUNYAC, Oswego State overall improved to 12-11 on the season and 9-7 in conference. They went up two games past No. 6 SUNY Oneonta, but still trail No. 4 SUNY Geneseo by two games. Already beating the Knights this season, they will have a chance to beat them once again in the final weekend and potentially host them for a quarterfinal playoff game.
“We’re becoming a good team at the right time of the year,” Leone said. “That’s always been a trademark of us, very-very fresh mentally at the end of the year and wanting to keep playing.”
Photo By Austin Dearborn | The Oswegonian