Alex Park, Staff Writer
Mager breaks scoring record; Longto finishes as blocks leader; Men and Women make playoffs
It has been a roller coaster season for these Red Dragons. With their backs against the wall the story of this season is about their resilience. What started to look like a promising season quickly went sour for the men after their victory against fifth ranked Williams College. The women on the other hand, started their season with a loss. Both fought until the end, leaving behind excellent seasons.
After two early victories, the men struggled, losing their next three games before defeating two conference opponents. Coach Medici had positioned the team in a favorable position as Oneonta looked poised to make their run. However, three straight losses against conference opponents established the theme for the season.
Inconsistent play had plagued the men’s chances at an early playoff berth, but when things were clicking, Oneonta was dangerous. Captains Zach Mager and Frankie Kelly handled a lot of the load, leading their team on a playoff charge. Junior Mikey McElroy (14.4 ppg) was the offensive weapon sparking the Red Dragons’ run.
The emergence of sophomore Lawrence Coleman helped fuel a late surge, where he set career-highs in points on consecutive nights.
By trading wins and losses throughout the season, Oneonta was put in a position where they had to win their last game to earn a playoff berth.
In a win-and-in situation, all eyes were on Mager and Kelly. Mager had a chance to make history and walk out of the regular season in grand-fashion. In the first half of the regular season finale against Buffalo State, Mager became the All Time Leading Scorer in men’s history.
John Flemming set the previous record with 1,418 points in 1989.
Mager commanded attention; it was his night. Kelly didn’t get the message, stealing the spotlight and for Oneonta’s sake, that was a good thing. Previously sending the Red Dragons to victory the previous night in buzzer-beating fashion, Kelly one-upped himself by doing the same against Buffalo State.
Crossover right, layup left; the same play that sent Oneonta to the victor’s circle on back to back nights sent the Red Dragons to the playoffs as well. Unfortunately, their run fell short as they succumbed to Oswego in the quarterfinals, 68-59.
The Lady Red Dragons had their eyes set on a playoff berth as well. Excitement had surrounded them because they knew what they were getting when Caysea Cohen transferred here from SUNY Cortland, a rivalry that only puts that much more attention on her.
The addition of Cohen gave Oneonta an outside presence that would prove to be the difference this season. It surely did as the inside presence of Sarah Longto anchored the Red Dragons.
After starting off the season red-hot, the Red Dragons traded wins and losses in SUNYAC play for six games, before sweeping Buffalo State and Fredonia State, giving the Red Dragons some breathing room.
Everything seemed to be firing on all cylinders but the Red Dragons failed to seize momentum. After trading wins and losses, a sudden three-game skid had the women staring in the crossroads similar to the men. Already having defeated Fredonia State and Buffalo State, Oneonta had an advantage.
Their psyche didn’t falter, decisively defeating the Blue Devils and Bengals, clinching a home-playoff game. Longto had a senior night to remember, nearly recording a triple-double while having the second most blocks in a single game in
Oneonta’s Women’s history (13 rebounds, 11 blocks, eight points).
The Plattsburgh Cardinals stood in Oneonta’s way towards the SUNYAC semi-finals. With the home team being the winning the two previous meetings this season, the Red Dragons held the advantage.
Junior Lyteshia Price struggled at the tail-end of the season but came up big against the Cardinals. With a 21-point outburst, she and the rest of her teammates kept Oneonta in striking distance with Cohen in foul trouble.
In a back-and-forth affair, Oneonta’s future rested in the hands of Plattsburgh’s final possession. The defense came together, fending off the Cardinals to notch the first playoff victory in three years. Jubilation filled Dewar Arena once the buzzer sounded. It was a long time coming for Coach Thompson and the rest of the Red Dragons as they moved on to face the top seeded Geneseo Knights. However the Knights proved to be too much to handle as the Red Dragons lost 62-49.
In an up-and-down season, the men and women showed their toughness and resiliency, clawing their way into the playoffs. Their performance this season has put the rest of the SUNYAC on notice.
Seniors Zach Mager, Frankie Kelly and Sarah Longto will be leaving behind a legacy that will be remembered. Mager finishes as the All-Time Leading Scorer in Oneonta Men’s History averaging 16.0 points and 4.4 rebounds. Kelly leaves behind his ice-cold demeanor on the basketball court, displaying clutch play in times of desperation. Longto goes down as one of, if not the best defender in women’s history, finishing her career with 219 blocks, 70 more than the next closest player.