Ward’s career night powers Oswego State men’s basketball into playoffs

OSWEGO, N.Y. – Hayden Ward (Sr., Montauk, N.Y.) had everything going for him on Senior Night, tallying career highs in points (33) and rebounds (18), as the Oswego State men’s basketball team (17-6, 10-6 SUNYAC) held off a late Oneonta (4-20, 3-14 SUNYAC) charge in a 79-75 win on Tuesday night at Max Ziel Gymnasium.

With the win, the Lakers have clinched a spot in the State University of New York Athletic Conference Playoffs.

Ward established his dominance in the post early on, as he grabbed eight rebounds of his own in the stanza, compared to 14 for the entire Oneonta team. He also hit two three-pointers en route to 16 points in the period.

The game went back and forth for the whole half, with the lead changing hands five times. The Red Dragons ripped off an 11-0 run to gain a 29-22 lead with 8:31 left in the half, but the Lakers never let the lead reach double digits. Trailing 38-31 with just over four minutes remaining, Oswego State went on a 9-0 run to gain a 40-38 halftime edge. Four different Lakers scored during the stretch.

Oswego State carried its momentum into the second half, scoring nine more points before Oneonta scored again. The 18-0 run spanned 8:27, and was the turning point of the game for the Lakers.

Ward’s presence down low was too much for the Red Dragons, as he scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for a double-double in the second half alone. He also buried four of his eight attempts from beyond the arc, showing off a true all-around game.

Senior Alex Mirabito (Oneonta, N.Y.) hit a jumper with 2:57 left to give the Lakers a 76-63 edge, but that would be the last shot from the field Oswego State would make. The Lakers missed five of eight free throws down the stretch to keep the Red Dragons within striking distance.

A desperation three by Oneonta’s Jack Dignan with 11 seconds left missed, but he was fouled during the shot and would make all three foul shots to cut the deficit down to five. After a missed free throw by Ward, the Red Dragons got a quick layup and called a quick timeout with the score at 78-75.

Sean Michele (Gr., East Rochester, N.Y.) received an inbounds pass and ran the clock down to under a second before he was fouled. He missed his first attempt, but made his second to seal the victory for Oswego State.

The Lakers out-rebounded the opposition 42-24 in the contest and had four players score in double figures. The Red Dragons also had four double-digit scorers, led by Zach Mager’s 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

Prior to the game, the program recognized the contributions of its five seniors: Ward, Mirabito, Michele, Chris Gilkes (Sr., Syracuse, N.Y.) and Brenden Nollet (Sr., Hannibal, N.Y.)

The Lakers travel to Potsdam and Plattsburgh on Friday and Saturday, respectively, to finalize their playoff positioning for the upcoming SUNYAC Championships.