The Oglethorpe women's basketball team fought valiantly to come from behind in the second half Friday afternoon at the SAA quarterfinals in Jackson, Miss., but the Hendrix Warriors proved to be too tough, in the end, and the Stormy Petrels fell, 73-66, bringing their season to a close with an 11-15 record.
The Petrels jumped out to a lead late in the first half, pushing their advantage to as much as nine points with 2:51 remaining in the opening period. However, Hendrix fought back to tie the game at halftime, then started the second half on a 10-3 run to build a seven-point lead, 42-35, with 16:46 remaining in the contest. They held the Petrels at arm's length for much of the remainder of the game, pushing their lead to as much as nine points with just under four minutes to go. The Petrels came back with a late run that put them within two points with just over a minute to go, but Hendrix pulled away for the victory in the final minute.
The Petrels shot 37.3 percent for the game and made 13.3 percent of their three-point attempts and 69 percent of their free-throw attempts. By comparison, Hendrix shot 40 percent from the field, 37 percent from three-point range and 51.7 percent from the free-throw line. Hendrix outrebounded the Petrels, 46-36, and outscored them 16-7 off second-chance points. The Petrels did force 11 Hendrix turnovers and outscored them 21-0 off of those miscues. In addition, the Petrels outscored the Warriors 34-18 in the paint.
Oglethorpe got another dominating performance by sophomore forward Ciaira Hughes, who did all she could to give the Petrels a chance to win. She scored 34 points on 11-of-15 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds, recording her 14th double-double of the season. In addition, she recorded four steals and two assists on the afternoon. Hughes' 34 points were a season high and ensure that she finishes the season having averaged 17.0 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. Junior guard Emily Buck also played well, contributing 13 points and two steals on 4-of-5 free-throw shooting. She finishes the season at 92.0 percent from the free-throw line.
Hendrix jumped out to a very early 7-2 lead, but the two teams began trading baskets after that and the Petrels slowly worked their way back toward even. With the Warriors ahead 16-10, though, after a mini-spurt from them, the Petrels embarked on an 8-0 run to snatch the lead from Hendrix, 18-16, with 10:22 left in the half. Hendrix briefly took a two-point lead back, but the Petrels again went on a run, rolling off a 13-2 stretch over the next 3:30 to take their largest lead of the game, a nine-point advantage with 2:51 remaining in the first. Just when it looked like the Petrels were getting ready to take complete control of the game, though, the Warriors ran off the final nine points of the half to tie the score, 32-32, as the teams went to their locker rooms.
The Warriors continued their run to start the second. They ran off a 10-3 spurt over the first 3:15 of the second half. Added to their first-half run, Hendrix enjoyed a 19-3 halftime-bridging run over a 6:35 stretch of play. The Petrels quickly pulled to within three with back-to-back baskets, but the two teams began trading baskets again and the Petrels could never quite get over the hump to tie the game or take the lead. Oglethorpe cut the Hendrix lead to two with 6:30 left, but the Warriors pushed their lead all the way to its largest of the game, a nine-point edge with 3:58 remaining. The Petrels needed a comeback in a hurry and they got a quick 7-0 spurt to pull to within two again, 64-62, with two minutes remaining. However, the Petrels couldn't get any breaks down the stretch and the Warriors hit a couple of big shots to pull away with the SAA quarterfinal victory.
"This was a hard-fought game by both teams," said Head Coach Alex Richey. "I was proud of our overall effort and attitude, just like I have been all season. Although this one stings, I am hopeful that it will motivate us to achieve the next step for our program. It was a successful season overall and I am proud to be the coach to a group of great young women."
The Petrels will graduate senior guard Erin McPhee from a team that finished 11-15, 6-8 in SAA play, but everybody else looks to return for next year's squad. The All-SAA teams will be announced Saturday evening in-between semifinal games at the SAA Tournament in Jackson and the Petrels will hope to see several players named to those squads.