The Oglethorpe women's basketball team got its 2015 SAA-USA South Classic off to a fantastic start Saturday afternoon, coming back from seven points down, including a four-point comeback in the final 30 seconds, to send the game to overtime and then eventually prevail over Piedmont 77-75 in the extra frame. The win improved the Stormy Petrels to 4-2 on the season.
The Petrels got several standout performances, chief among them a 21-point, 13-rebound effort from freshman forward Lauren Ransom, who left late in the game with an injury and returned for the final stretch to push her team to victory. The squad also got 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting from freshman guard Bailey Charles and 11 points from senior guard Emily Buck. Freshman guard Brooke Simpson had the best game of her young career, as well, scoring 10 points on 3-of-5 from three-point range.
The Petrels led just once all afternoon, a brief one-point edge at the end of the first quarter, when they took the lead by a point again late in the third. They pushed out to a two-point advantage to start the fourth, but Piedmont came back with a three-point play to take the lead right back with 6:22 left. A three-pointer from Simpson gave the Petrels a 58-56 advantage with 5:23 left, though, and that was quickly followed by another Simpson three, which pushed Oglethorpe's lead out to five points, its largest of the day, with 4:32 remaining in regulation. The Lions had an answer, though, embarking on a 7-0 run over 2:15 to build a four-point edge, 67-63, with just 37 seconds remaining. A layup in traffic by Buck cut the lead to two with 30 seconds left and, after a pair of missed Piedmont free throws, freshman center Alexandria Brown grabbed the rebound and pushed it to Charles, who ran the length of the floor for the game-tying layup with 18 seconds left. The Petrels had an opportunity to win the game in regulation after a missed Piedmont shot, but Simpson's potential game-winner clanged off the front iron to send the game to overtime.
In the extra period, the two teams traded baskets for the majority of the proceedings. A Piedmont foul shot tied the game for the 11th time, 72-72, with 1:53 to play in the extra frame. However, a jumper from Charles gave the Petrels a two-point lead with 1:41 left and, after some missed Petrel foul shots, Ransom stepped to the line with 14 seconds to go and gave Oglethorpe a 76-72 lead with a 2-for-2 trip. When Piedmont missed a three-pointer on the other end and Ransom secured the rebound with eight seconds remaining, the Petrels secured the victory.
Piedmont started the game on a 9-2 run over the first 4:30, but the Petrels came back with a 9-1 run over the next six minutes to take their only lead of the first half, 11-10, with 29 seconds remaining in the first quarter. The Lions quickly retook the lead and pushed it back out again, though, going on an 8-2 stretch over the opening portion of the second quarter to build an 18-12 lead with 6:58 remaining in the first half. The two teams traded baskets for a time after that, allowing the Lions to maintain their six-point edge with 3:32 left in the half, but the Petrels went on an 8-2 run to tie the game again with 1:27 left. Piedmont hit a three-pointer in the final minute, though, and, despite a buzzer-beater from Oglethorpe junior forward McKenzie Fortson, led 30-29 at the break.
The Lions again pushed their lead out to start the third quarter, building a 40-33 advantage with 6:35 left in the period after a 10-4 run to start it. The Petrels again fought back, though, embarking on a 16-8 run over the next six minutes to take their first lead of the second half, 49-48, with 15 seconds left in the period.
The two teams shot relatively evenly for the game, with Oglethorpe converting at a 37-percent clip to Piedmont's 35 percent. The Petrels made just 26 percent of their three-point attempts to Piedmont's 22 percent. The Petrels outscored Piedmont 16-7 on the fast break and won despite a 62-50 rebounding advantage for Piedmont.
"That was a wild game where two teams played extremely hard," said Head Coach Alex Richey. "Piedmont is so well-coached and they compete on every possession. I was proud of our effort on the defensive end and, even though we relinquished the lead late, we executed well to get to overtime. In overtime, we definitely grew up as a team and came together to hold on. We still have a long way to go and, with a quick turnaround, we can't enjoy this one for too long because LaGrange is just as tough."
The Petrels will take on the aforementioned Panthers Sunday at 4 p.m. in the final game of the SAA-USA South Classic. The Panthers defeated Berry by 10 points in Saturday's first game.