The Oglethorpe men's basketball team took home the title at their own Holiday Inn Express and Suites Tournament on Saturday afternoon, taking down the Geneva Golden Tornadoes 77-73 in the championship game at Dorough Field House. The Stormy Petrels withstood a big Geneva comeback late to hold on for the victory. They led by as many as 22 points in the second half and held a 70-50 advantage with 6:03 on the clock, but four consecutive made 3-pointers from the Golden Tornadoes' Jimmy Leichliter was followed by a run of six points in 20 seconds, cutting the Oglethorpe lead to 74-70 with 41 seconds remaining. Senior guard Connor Smith and junior forward Will Perry sank free throws to put the game away down the stretch, however. The win allowed the Petrels to improve to 7-4 on the season overall.
The Petrels began the game on fire, connecting on three of their first four attempts from beyond the arc. The Tornadoes would try to keep the game close, but with just under 10 minutes left in the first half, the Petrels would embark on an 11-point run pushing their lead out to 31-18. The Petrels would go into halftime leading 41-31.
Smith led the team in the first half with 12 points connecting on 4 of 7 three-pointers. Additionally, sophomore forward Justin Hughes earned 11 points by going 3 for 6 from 3-point land. The Petrels also saw great playmaking skills by freshman guard Lane Foster, who dished out five assists over the half while not committing a turnover.
The Petrels would continue their great shooting performance entering the second half by going on an 11-2 run and only missing two shots during that stretch. The Petrels continued to extend their lead out to 61-39 with 11:12 left to play. With barely over six minutes on the clock, the Tornadoes created their improbable comeback, but the Petrels were able to hold on.
Perry finished the game shooting 50 percent from the field and scoring 18 points. He also led the Petrels with nine rebounds and came one shy of a double-double. Smith also had a noteworthy performance, recording six rebounds, two assists, two steals, and led the Petrels with 19 points. Finally, sophomore forward Justin Hughes served his sixth man role well, coming off the bench to score 17 points.
"Today was a good win," said Oglethorpe head coach Philip Ponder. "We had some guys out with injuries, and we had some foul trouble, but we had some guys come in and give us some good contributions off the bench. I thought we played well for about 38 minutes, but then we made some mistakes late that we will hopefully learn from. It's nice to win the tournament, and we've got one more big test against Emory before we get into conference play."
The Petrels will return to action on Tuesday to face crosstown rival Emory at 8 p.m. from Dorough Field House. The Petrels will then travel to Conway, Arkansas, on Friday to battle SAA rival Hendrix, and continue to Memphis, Tennessee, to go against Rhodes on Jan. 7.