OSWEGO, N.Y. – This time their comeback was not enough. The 14th-ranked Oswego State (26-4) men’s basketball team trailed by 10 in the second half and by five in the first overtime, but a three-pointer by 21st-ranked Eastern Connecticut State University (24-5) with 2.5 seconds left in double overtime handed the Lakers a 70-69 loss in the second round of the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament at Max Ziel Gymnasium on Saturday night.
The Lakers seemed to be in trouble early in the second half, but the Warriors went through an eight-minute stretch in which they scored just one field goal, opening the door for a comeback.
Oswego State’s senior captain Chad Burridge (Hannibal, N.Y.) had one more big game for the Lakers and the home crowd to lead the comeback effort. Burridge hit a pair of three-pointers and scored 12 straight Oswego State points to cut the lead to one on two occasions during the run.
Finally, with 5:43 left in regulation Hayden Ward (Jr., Montauk, N.Y.) gave the Lakers their first lead of the half when he hit three straight free throws for a 50-49 Oswego State advantage.
The two teams traded points over the next 90 seconds, but it was a three-pointer by Ryan Sheridan (Sr., Blauvelt, N.Y.) that rimmed out that could have earned Oswego State even more momentum. It was one of a handful of Laker shots in the game that appeared good, but were denied by an unfavorable bounce off the rim.
After neither team scored for over two minutes, an old-fashioned three-point play by the Warriors’ Jamie Kohn put the visitors up 54-52 with 1:33 to play.
The two teams each missed three-point shots on the following possessions before Ward was back at the line with 32 seconds left. The junior hit both shots to tie the game at 54.
After Eastern Connecticut State University missed a well-defended shot, the Lakers were headed to overtime for the second straight night.
The Warriors went on a 6-1 run in the first four minutes of the overtime, but a three-pointer by Sean Michele (Sr., East Rochester, N.Y.) with 15 seconds left gave the Lakers new hope.
Eastern Connecticut State University missed both free throw attempts on the other end and the Lakers brought the ball up the floor, down 60-58.
Michele drove the lane and found an open Chris Gilkes (Jr., Syracuse, N.Y.) right under the basket with three tenths of the second left, sending the game to a second overtime.
Ward hit a three early in the second overtime and Burridge added a free throw, but a quick 5-0 run put the Warriors up 65-64 with 1:50 to play.
Ward put the Lakers back in front with a bucket in the paint and a Warrior miss allowed Oswego State to run some time off the clock.
Ryan Sheridan (Sr., Blauvelt, N.Y.) drew a foul with one second left on the shot clock and hit both free throws for a 68-65 lead.
However, the Warriors put back an offense rebound and fouled Michele with 12.1 seconds left, to keep their hopes alive.
Michele made one free throw and the Warriors came down the floor, and had Brian Salzillo take a deep three-pointer from the top of the key. Salzillo hit his third three-pointer of the game for a 70-69 Warrior lead with 2.5 seconds left.
Much like the night before, Burridge threw a long pass to Ward at the top of the key for one final shot, but the Warriors defended it well and the attempt was well short, ending the game and the Lakers’ season.
Burridge finished with 27 points and eight rebounds to lead Oswego State, while Ward added 13 points and Gilkes chipped in 10.
Eastern Connecticut State University was led by Salzillo’s 15 points and three others in double figures. The Warriors were able to build their first-half lead thanks a trio of late three-pointers, including two that were banked in off the backboard. Eastern Connecticut State University extended a 20-19 lead with 7:25 left in the half to 36-26 at the break with the second three-pointer off the glass.
It was the second straight season the Lakers saw their season end in the second round of the tournament to team from the Little East Conference. Rhode Island College knocked off the Lakers last season.
The 26 wins this season set a program record for wins in a single season and the six seniors on the team graduate with a four-year record of 78-33.