The Oglethorpe women's basketball team fought hard for 40 minutes against a game Berry squad in the SAA opener for both teams Thursday evening in Dorough Field House. A late comeback was not quite enough to get the Stormy Petrels over the hump, though, as they fell to the visiting Vikings, 70-69.
The Petrels used a huge effort from sophomore forward Ciaira Hughes to stay within striking distance the whole game, as she scored 28 points on 12-of-19 from the field and 4-of-5 from the free-throw line. She also recorded another double-double, grabbing 15 rebounds. In addition, she blocked four shots and made three steals. Junior guard Kristen Kennebrew also had a fantastic game for the Petrels, scoring 10 points while recording a team-high seven assists and three steals.
After a solid early stretch in which they built a six-point lead, the Petrels fell behind 35-26 at halftime. Berry then built that lead further, holiding a 10-point advantage with 7:12 remaining in the game. The Petrels were still behind by 10 points with three-and-a-half minutes left, but mounted a big rally as the game drew to a close, outscoring the Vikings 16-7 over the remainder of the contest. However, they came up a single point short as Berry hit a free throw with five seconds left to seal the victory. The Petrels shot 35.2 percent for the game to Berry's 39.6. The two teams were even on rebounds and Oglethorpe forced 23 Berry turnovers on the evening. In addition, Oglethorpe outscored the Vikings 32-22 in the paint.
The game started well for the Petrels, as they built a 7-1 lead over the first six minutes of the contest. That six-point lead would be their largest of the game, but they would maintain an advantage until Berry tied the game, 13-13, with 8:13 remaining in the first half. The Vikings were in the midst of an 18-5 run that would give them a 23-16 lead with 3:49 remaining in the opening period. The Petrels would quickly answer back with six straight points to cut the Berry lead to 23-22 with 2:44 left, but the Vikings pushed it back out just as quickly, ending the opening half on a 12-4 spurt to give themselves a nine-point lead going into the break. Hughes scored 16 of her 28 points in the first half while grabbing eight boards. She also recorded all four of her blocks in the opening period.
In the second half, the Petrels used a 14-7 run over a six-minute period to pull back even with the Vikings, 48-48. However, Berry immediately ran off 10 straight points to build their largest lead of the game, 58-48, with 7:12 remaining. The two teams would trade baskets for the next several minutes, but Oglethorpe was still down by 10, 63-53, with 3:34 left in the game. From there, the Petrels started their comeback, clawing back to within a single point by outscoring the Vikings by nine points over the final three-and-a-half minutes. However, a Berry free throw put them up by four with five seconds left, rendering junior guard Emily Buck's made three-pointer from near halfcourt at the end of the game moot. The Viking held on for the one-point win.
"I was very proud of our defensive effort tonight," said Oglethorpe Head Coach Alex Richey. "It was our best of the season. This is definitely something to build on for our program. Of course, we would have loved to have come out of it with a win, but regardless, we got better as a team tonight."
With the loss the Petrels drop to 4-4 on the season, 0-1 in SAA play. They'll travel to Montgomery, Ala., on Sunday for their final game before final exams, a 4 p.m. tipoff with Huntingdon. After a weeklong break for exams, the Petrels will get back to action with a very tough holiday schedule, starting the Holiday Inn Express and Suites Holiday Classic Dec. 18-19.