The Oglethorpe men's basketball team used outstanding defense in the first half and outstanding shooting in the second half to outlast the homestanding LaGrange Panthers on Sunday at the Lee Richter Classic. The Stormy Petrels defeated LaGrange 66-63 to earn a split from their two games over the weekend. The result improved the Petrels to 3-2 over the course of the season.
The Petrels held the Panthers to 28 percent shooting from the field overall and 1-of-9 from three-point range in the first half. In the second half, they cranked it up on the offensive end, shooting 55 percent from the field overall and 50 percent from beyond the arc, while sinking three of their four free throw attempts. For the game, the Petrels shot 49 percent overall while LaGrange sank 43 percent of their total shots. The Petrels finished at 40 percent from three-point range and held LaGrange to 27 percent from three-point range. Oglethorpe was 6-for-8 from the free throw line over the course of the game, as well.
The Petrels never trailed in the game, but also never led by more than nine points over the course of the contest. They took their biggest lead of the game right off the bat, going on an 11-2 run over the opening 5:30 of the contest. LaGrange responded with five straight points, and the two teams traded baskets for the rest of the half after that. The Panthers cut the Oglethorpe lead to as little as two points, 20-18, with 2:57 left in the half, but Oglethorpe pushed it back out to 26-21 at the break.
In the second half, the teams continued to trade baskets, and the lead oscillated between seven and three points as each team went on mini-runs. With five minutes remaining in the contest, the Panthers had the Oglethorpe lead cut to 55-52. Oglethorpe responded with a pair of baskets that pushed their advantage back out to seven points. Junior forward Will Perry and junior center Tom Inungu sandwiched a pair of made jump shots around a missed LaGrange three-pointer, giving Oglethorpe a 59-52 advantage with 4:12 left in the contest. A Panther three-pointer made it 59-55 with 3:44 remaining, but Oglethorpe senior guard Chris Lawrence responded with a long range shot of his own to give the visitors a 62-55 lead with 3:16 on the clock. Five straight Panther points got them back to within two, 62-60, with 1:33 left, but Inungu came back with another jump shot less than 30 seconds later to give Oglethorpe a four-point lead back. A LaGrange three-pointer made it a one-point game with 10 seconds left, though, giving them a chance. Oglethorpe freshman guard Lane Foster made a pair of free throws to make it 66-63 with seven seconds left, but LaGrange had one more chance. They couldn't get their three-pointer to fall at the buzzer, though, and the Petrels secured the victory.
Perry led the Petrels with 19 points on 8-of-14 from the field, while Inungu scored 12 on 6-of-10 shooting and grabbed 9 rebounds. Senior guard Connor Smith finished with 11 points on 4-of-8 overall and 3-of-7 from distance, leading the team with 3 steals in the process, while Lawrence led the Petrels with 3 assists.
"I was really proud of how the guys bounced back today after a subpar performance yesterday," said Oglethorpe head coach Philip Ponder. "That's a really good and extremely athletic team we beat today. We continue to be a work in progress, but after a step back yesterday, we took a big step forward today. I thought our defense was outstanding in the first half and our offense picked up in the second half. We had a bunch of guys make clutch plays down the stretch, and that's our third close win of the season where we've had different guys come up big down the stretch."
The Petrels will return to Atlanta on Wednesday for their first SAA game of the season. They'll take on Berry at 8 p.m. from Dorough Field House. After that, they'll head to northeast Georgia next weekend for a battle with Piedmont in Demorest next Sunday.