Lakers hold press conference before playoffs – The Oswegonian
By Jack Perdek
“Pack the Ziel” is the phrase of the week as Oswego State is set to host the final rounds of the SUNYAC playoffs.
The Oswego State Lakers held a press conference on February 23. With head coach Jason Leone and captains Louis Fedullo and Julien Crittendon. The team discussed the mentality of the team heading into their home playoff tournament and what home court advantage will mean for their success.
Leone started the conference by highlighting the differences between this year’s team and the Laker team that competed in the NCAA Tournament in 2019.
“Each season takes on its own identity, many players who played a part in our success this year weren’t there for those games,” Leone said. “Our team this year is incredibly unique compared to any team I’ve coached here just because of the depth we have and our much faster athleticism and pace of play this year. The one thing on we draw from previous years is how difficult it is to play against a team three times a year.
This season has been one of the best regular seasons in Leone’s time here at Oswego State. The Lakers have won 23 ball games and 17 of them coming from SUNYAC opponents. Their 17-1 conference record gave them their second top seed in three seasons. With the playoffs taking place at home, Crittendon and Fedullo see a huge advantage there.
“We didn’t have a season last year, just being able to play in this environment in the Ziel is huge,” Crittendon said. “I think the students getting the 500 free shirts is a great idea. Bringing the Oswego community together is a great thing to have and we are thrilled.
“It’s really great to be able to host,” Fedullo said. “One of my first years in the team  we were able to host and then we went to Brockport and it was a completely different vibe. Winning games in the SUNYAC playoffs is hard enough, and doing it at home makes it easier for us.
Winning SUNYAC playoff games is something the Lakers are used to over the past three years. Despite their success this season, one team that has had the last laugh on the Lakers is the SUNY New Paltz Hawks. Just two weeks ago, the two conference opponents returned with the Hawks surviving green and gold 64-63 on home soil.
With SUNY New Paltz being the Lakers’ only loss of the season in SUNYAC, it would make sense for the two to show up in Saturday’s semifinal. Leone and the Lakers are aware of the challenge the Hawks present.
“They are the only team that has been able to beat our physique,” Leone said. “These guys are capable of getting into the lane, they are capable of making changes. Last time we didn’t execute things. They are a group with a tough spirit, we will have to play very well to win.
Crittendon and Fedullo won’t handle this matchup with ease either. They said the team should stick to their game and this game should be good to watch.
“I think we’ll find it to be a very competitive and tough game,” Crittendon said. “We are both fighting for something. They beat us last time and we have an advantage in this game. It’s hard to find blowout in these kinds of games. We have to stick to the team and listen to what the coach says and everything will be fine.
“They can be the only ones [SUNYAC] team to beat us in the regular season gives us a bit more competitive edge in the game. They came out and played a really good game against us last time around, so we’re going to use those next two days to prepare and we’ll be ready for them.
Outside of Oswego State and SUNY New Paltz playoff spots, SUNY Oneonta and SUNY Brockport also come to Lake Ontario. The Lakers have managed to sweep both teams with ease this season and will need to win two game threes to win the SUNYAC Conference.
Leone said the playoffs have an unfamiliar vibe compared to the 25 games they’ve played in the past four months.
“Playoff basketball has a different composition than regular season games. So, if there’s something I want to stress about our players, it’s that for every win, the further you go through the season, the harder it is to get a win.
The Lakers and the rest of the SUNYAC playoff teams will take the floor Feb. 25-26. At the Max Ziel gymnasium. Crittendon sounded off this weekend’s games as the place to be for the Oswego community.
“It will be a great environment,” Crittendon said. “I think we’re a fun team to watch, and it’s fun to do on a Friday night. It’s a playoff basketball game with high intensity levels. So why not come support?
Michael Gross | The Oswegonian