Chamberlain layup

Oswego’s Zach Chamberlain goes up for a layup, trying to get by a Fowler defender during the Bucs’ victory Tuesday.

OSWEGO — Before Tuesday, the Oswego boys basketball team hadn’t seen the David Powers Gymnasium in a game setting this season.

The Bucs opened their season with four regular-season road games — not including the two away exhibition games earlier in the campaign — and finally returned home, picking up a 50-38 win over Fowler.

Between dealing with COVID-19 adversity — the Oswego City School District went virtual at the end of December, forcing a pause on athletics — plus an unusual schedule with a 13-day break between a couple games, it hasn’t been the easiest of starts, Oswego coach James LaMacchia said. 

On top of all that, the Bucs are a fairly young squad. Only three players — Lucas Warner, Zach Chamberlain and Nate DeVinny — have varsity experience, while Chris Cote got “limited time” last year. There’s a good chunk of players that are new to the varsity level.

“I’m not the type of coach that makes excuses with my players, but we haven’t been dealt a very good hand so far this year,” he said. “We’re still getting better and learning how to maintain a big lead, which we’ve got work to do.”

A slow start to Oswego’s offense plagued the Bucs early, going down 6-0 early against the Falcons. Nate DeVinny scored five points in the opening quarter, but the team didn’t have an answer for the early shooting from Fowler’s Spencer Wellington.

The Bucs trailed 13-8 after the first quarter.

“We’re just getting off to slow starts. I don’t know what it is. We address it in practice. We’re shooting a lot in practice. I tell them that you can’t control that,” LaMacchia said. “But we also live and die by the three a little bit. When you’re not knocking it down and it’s not your night, you have to find ways to produce points.”

Oswego scored the first four points of the second quarter, eventually pulling away with a 20-18 lead going into halftime after some free throws and a couple layups from Billy Waterbury.

“We have spurts where we’re just not hitting our shots,” LaMacchia said. “We’re getting great looks at the basket. I don’t think anyone can dispute that. But we’re going through spurts where we’re just not hitting shots. We have to get over that hump.”

Early scoring in the third quarter got away from one of those “spurts,” giving the Bucs their largest lead of the game 26-18, thanks to some fouls from Fowler. Chamberlain notched a pair of free throws, while Warner tacked on a layup in the opening three minutes before the Falcons finally responded.

Oswego also started gaining ground on defensive rebounds, allowing for more quick transition plays.

“Our defensive rebounding is fantastic. It’s our offensive rebounding out of that zone,” LaMacchia said. “That’s a priority that I hit on every single day in practice. But I thought they persevered.”

Fowler had a late push in the third quarter behind a 3-pointer from Omar Musa, and layups from Ny’Quan Williams and Gilbert Del Rosario-Morel. But Oswego still led 30-29. Williams also nailed a free throw at the beginning of the fourth quarter to tie the game at 30. 

Oswego went on a seven-point run behind five points from Chamberlain. But sealing the game was Cody Vickery, who had “a lot of energy” in the last five minutes of the game, LaMacchia said. The Bucs were able to hold off a full-court press from the Falcons with some quick passing up the court, as well.

The Bucs also kept “their emotions in check,” avoiding foul trouble. While no one fouled out from Fowler, some offensive fouls and other fouls on the floor gave Oswego a chance to keep separating the gap.

Eventually, the Bucs scored two more layups in the last 35 seconds from Vickery and Waterbury to seal the 50-38 victory.

“They’re pretty even-steven kind of guys. … I don’t ever have any problems with these kids when it comes to that stuff,” LaMacchia said. “Things got ugly and a little sloppy again. They did what they had to do to put the baby to bed.”

Warner led Oswego with 16 points in the contest, followed by nine points from Chamberlain. Vickery and Waterbury tacked on eight points each. DeVinny recorded seven points. Coby Stubbe rounded out the scoring with two points.

Oswego (3-2) travels to East Syracuse-Minoa today, looking for its third consecutive win. 

“ESM is young, they’re down a little bit compared to last year. This league is wide open this year,” LaMacchia said. “Everyone deals with a lot. But with the way our schedule broke, six games to open the season on the road, that’s absolutely brutal. I tell them, ‘You’ve got that chip on your shoulder. We’re going to hardened by the time February comes.’ That’s what you play for.”