The Oglethorpe women's basketball team suffered a difficult loss to LaGrange Sunday as part of the SAA-USA South Classic at Dorough Field House, as the visiting Panthers made a pair of free throws with 0.4 seconds left to defeat the Stormy Petrels 49-47. The loss drops the Petrels to 4-3 on the season.
The last-second free throws came after Oglethorpe stormed back from a four-point deficit for the second time in as many days to tie the game in the final minute. It also came after the Panthers fought back from a 10-point deficit of their own in the third quarter, and a six-point deficit early in the fourth, to take the lead into the final two minutes. It left the Petrels at 1-1 over the course of the two-day event.
With the score tied 47-47 and eight seconds to go, LaGrange inbounded the ball and went the length of the court. Guard Lauren Johnson of the Panthers drove to the basket and collided with Oglethorpe freshman Bailey Charles with 1.4 seconds left. It was a blocking foul on Charles, but the it occurred before the shot and the Petrels had two fouls to give at the time. That resulted in LaGrange inbounding the ball from underneath the basket. They got the ball to forward Morgan McDonald, who was fouled on a jump shot by Oglethorpe freshman forward Lauren Ransom as time expired. The officials put 0.4 seconds back on the clock, but McDonald made both free throws, leaving the Petrels with only a heave since they had already used their allotted timeouts. Charles's halfcourt shot fell short at the buzzer, securing the two-point victory for the Panthers.
It looked as though the Panthers would get the win far easier, though, as they led by six with 2:45 to play and by four with 1:15 to play. A pair of free throws by senior guard Emily Buck cut the lead to four with 2:44 left, then Ransom hit a baseline jump shot with 1:07 left to cut the LaGrange lead to just two, 47-45. The Petrels had the opportunity to tie the game at the free-throw line with 16 seconds left, but a pair of missed foul shots gave LaGrange the ball back. Excellent defense on an inbound play earned the Petrels a turnover on a Panthers five-second violation with 12 seconds left, though, and the Petrels made the most out of the opportunity as Buck drove to the basket and scored with eight seconds left, tying the game at 47-apiece.
Buck finished the game with 17 points on 3-of-9 from three-point range and 2-of-2 from the free-throw line while adding a pair of steals. Ransom recorded another double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. She also recorded four blocks over the course of the contest.
The Petrels built a seven-point lead to star the fourth quarter, but a huge LaGrange run vaulted them into control of the contest. Down 41-35 with 9:03 remaining, the Panthers began a huge run which turned the tide of the game. They reeled off a 12-0 spurt over the next 3:30 to turn the game upside down, taking a 47-41 lead with 4:58 remaining.
Oglethorpe led the majority of the game, but LaGrange started cutting into the lead as the third quarter unfolded. Down 31-21 with 9:30 left in the quarter, they slowly whittled the Oglethorpe advantage down. They outscored the Petrels 12-5 over a six-minute stretch of the third period to get as close as three points before the home side pushed it back out to six.
The first quarter saw the Petrels build an early edge with a 9-2 run, taking a 9-5 lead. LaGrange answered back with a mini-run of their own and the two teams traded baskets, but a three-pointer from junior guard Raegan Merryman gave Oglethorpe a 16-14 lead at the end of the first quarter. They pushed that advantage out in the second quarter, bridging a 12-4 spurt across the quarter-break to extend their lead to 22-16 with 7:51 remaining. Five straight LaGrange points cut the lead to one, but the Petrels pushed their advantage back out before halftime with a 7-0 run over the final four minutes and took a 29-21 edge into the locker room.
LaGrange outshot the Petrels 33-to-31 percent, including 39-to-31 percent from the three-point line. In addition, the Petrels shot just 53 percent from the free throw line to LaGrange's 92 percent. The Petrels did enjoy a 41-34 rebounding advantage, including an 18-10 edge on the offensive glass. As a result, they outscored the Panthers 12-4 in second-chance points. LaGrange outscored Oglethorpe 22-8 off the bench.
"We suffered some growing pains today, specifically in that four-minute offensive lull against a big, physical, athletic LaGrange team," said Head Coach Alex Richey. "It's a tough loss, but it's part of the process of growing up as a team. Credit to LaGrange on their 40-minute effort."
"Overall, it was a pretty good weekend for us," Richey continued. "It would've been great to win two, but we played two good teams very evenly over the course of the two days, winning one and losing one. We have to bounce back now, though, because we start SAA play this Friday."
The Petrels will next take on a Berry team they saw play twice this weekend as part of the SAA-USA South Classic. They'll travel to Mount Berry, Georgia, for their SAA opener against the Vikings at 6 p.m. Friday. Berry also went 1-1 for the weekend, defeating Piedmont and falling to LaGrange.