The Oglethorpe men's basketball team fought hard in their SAA opener Friday night in Mount Berry, Georgia, matching the homestanding Vikings point for point over 40 minutes of regulation and through 10 minutes of overtime. Berry's Elijah Hirsch hit a fadeaway jumper with three seconds to go in the second overtime period, however, giving his team an 82-81 win over the Stormy Petrels and dropping Oglethorpe to 4-4 on the season.
The Petrels almost didn't get to overtime, as they found themselves down 63-60 with nine seconds left in regulation. However, freshman guard Carlos Sone buried a 3-pointer from the corner with just two seconds left in regulation, sending the game to an extra period. Oglethorpe gained a two-point lead a couple of times in the first overtime period, getting baskets from Sone and fellow freshman guard Ryan Jenei. With the score tied at 67-67, senior forward Zach Breathwaite sank a 3-pointer with 1:45 left, giving Oglethorpe a 70-67 lead. That advantage extended to 71-67 with a minute to go, but Berry came back with a couple of free throws and a game-tying basket with six seconds remaining, sending the game to double overtime.
The second overtime went back and forth with the lead changing hands seven times over the course of the five minutes. Jenei gave Oglethorpe a 79-78 lead with a 3-pointer at the 1:05 mark. Berry responded with a bucket to take the lead back, but Oglethorpe senior center Tom Inungu gave the Petrels an 81-80 edge with 22 seconds left. However, the visitors couldn't get a stop at the other end.
Oglethorpe led 32-29 at halftime, but the Vikings caught fire to start the second half. They began the period on a 19-6 run and took their largest lead of the game, 48-38, with 13:15 left in regulation. The Petrels came back, though, outscoring Berry 21-7 over an 8:15 stretch to vault into the lead. They held a 59-55 edge with 4:10 remaining after Breathwaite sank one of his four 3-point baskets of the game. The Vikings responded, though, and the two teams went back and forth over the final moments of regulation.
The Petrels led by as many as six in the first half, taking a 30-24 lead at the four-minute mark after outscoring their opponent 14-6 over a 4:45 stretch. The home side fought back to within three at the break, though.
Breathwaite led the Petrels with 19 points on 7-of-12 from the field and 4-of-6 from 3-point range, throwing in three steals. Inungu added 18 points on 6-of-11 from the field, while sophomore forward Will Koch scored 12 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and tallied three assists. He also went 5-of-10 from the field. Sophomore guard Lane Foster led all participants with seven assists.
Oglethorpe shot 48.3 percent from the field, including a 44.4 percent mark from 3-point range. It wasn't enough, though, as Berry sank 52.4 percent of their field-goal attempts and outscored Oglethorpe 52-30 in the paint. The Petrels did outscore the Vikings 24-6 off the bench.
"That was a great college basketball game," said Oglethorpe head coach Philip Ponder. "Both teams made big shots down the stretch. We had a great opportunity to get a road win, but we just couldn't get stops. This one hurts, but we have to put it behind us and get ready for tomorrow night."
The Petrels will take on in-state opponent Piedmont Saturday at 7 p.m. from Dorough Field House. After that, they'll head to Lookout Mountain for a battle with Covenant on Saturday, Dec. 15.