The Oglethorpe men's basketball team flipped the script in the second half against the visiting Berry Vikings Wednesday night at Dorough Field House, turning an 11-point deficit early in the second half into a nine-point win in the SAA opener for both teams. The Stormy Petrels outscored Berry 39-26 in the second half and played outstanding defense late, enabling them to move to 4-2 on the season overall and 1-0 in SAA play.
The Petrels were down 41-30 with 14:17 to go in the game, but slowly started working their way back into the contest. The big run began with Oglethorpe down 46-37 at the 10:41 mark. From there, they went on an 11-1 spurt over 3:20 to suddenly take the lead, 48-47, with 7:02 remaining. A basket from junior center Tom Inungu gave the Petrels the edge. After a Berry three-point play gave the lead back, 50-48, the Petrels began another run, and this one would turn the game in their favor for good. They outscored the Vikings 15-2 over the next 5:30 to push out to a game-high 11-point advantage with 46 seconds on the clock. In all, Oglethorpe outscored Berry 27-9 from the 10:40 mark to the end of the game.
The Vikings began the second half on fire, turning a 29-25 edge at the break into a 36-25 lead, their largest of the game, at the 18:11 mark. Their 7-0 run over the opening two minutes of the half put them in control early in the period, and though the Petrels cut it back to eight points a couple of times, Berry maintained their advantage through the 14:17 mark.
In the first half, neither team was able to get much of an advantage, but the balance of play went to the Vikings. They started the game on a 10-4 run over the opening five minutes of the contest. The Petrels answered back with a quick 7-0 spurt culminated by a dunk from sophomore center Stefan Britvar to take a 13-12 lead. However, the Petrels lost momentum at that point. They were assessed a technical foul for having too many men on the floor and Berry hit the subsequent free throws to take the lead back, then the Vikings continued on a 12-5 run to build up a six-point advantage of their own, 24-18, with 5:49 left in the period. The Petrels pulled it back to a one-point contest with 2:26 until halftime, but Berry maintained a four-point advantage at the break.
The Vikings built their first-half lead by shooting 92 percent from the charity stripe to Oglethorpe's 33 percent over the opening period of play. This advantage offset the Petrels' 44-to-29 percent advantage from the field in the first half.
For the game, Oglethorpe shot 41 percent from the field and held Berry to 33 percent. The Petrels outrebounded the Vikings 41-35 and outscored them 34-22 in the paint.
The Petrels were led by Inungu, who wound up with 18 points on 8-of-11 from the field to go with 6 rebounds. Junior forward Will Perry contributed 14 points to the effort on 5-of-9 from the field, and led the team with 7 rebounds. Senior guard Chris Lawrence finished with 15 points on 3-of-8 from three-point range, hitting all three shots during the second-half run. Freshman guard Lane Foster led the team with 4 assists and 4 steals.
"I thought our defense did a good job of keeping us in the game when things weren't going our way early," said Oglethorpe head coach Philip Ponder. "We told the guys to keep playing good defense and that, if we did, we'd keep ourselves in the game. We did just that, and we finally started hitting some shots about midway through the second half. Our defense got even better at that point, and we really were able to shut them down late, which was a big key to winning this game. What I loved about this win was that it wasn't pretty, but the team showed a ton of heart and grit. This team has shown a lot of that early in the season here against a tough schedule. I've been pleased with the way we've handled this tough early-season stretch and I love the way we've been winning close games."
The 4-2 Petrels will now get set to travel to Demorest for their final game before taking a break for exams. They'll take on Piedmont at 2 p.m. on Sunday, then not hit the floor again until Dec. 20, when they head to Florida for the Daytona Beach Shootout. There, they'll play Lawrence and Concordia (Wisconsin) on back-to-back days.