The Oglethorpe women's basketball team saw their outstanding season come to a close Friday night in the first round of the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Championship, as the homestanding No. 3 Thomas More Saints just proved to be too much for the Stormy Petrels, defeating them 84-58 at Connor Convocation Center in Crestview Hills, Kentucky. The defeat meant that the Petrels ended their season at 21-8, the best record the program has enjoyed since the 2008-09 season.
Shooting and rebounding told the tale of the contest on Friday night, as Thomas More shot 50 percent from the field while Oglethorpe converted on 31 percent of their shot attempts. Meanwhile, the Saints outrebounded the Petrels 49-25 for the game and outscored them 28-11 in second chance points and 38-10 in the paint.
Thomas More was hot early, scoring the opening eight points of the contest within the first 10 minutes. That run extended to 28-10 over the opening 7:30, but the Petrels seemed to settle into the game a bit late in the first quarter and in the first half of the second quarter. Oglethorpe cut the Saints' lead to 30-15 at the end of the opening period, then started the second quarter by adding on three more points to cut the Thomas More advantage to 12 points, 30-18, with 9:09 remaining in the half. The two teams traded baskets for the next couple minutes, putting the Petrels back within 12 points, 34-22, with 6:17 left in the second quarter. From there, though, Thomas More ended the half on a 13-5 run and took a 47-27 advantage into the break.
The Saints run continued at the outset of the third quarter, as they scored the first six points of the period to take a 53-27 lead. Oglethorpe got back within 20 points late in the third after a 6-point minirun put them within 18 points, 62-44, with 1:04 on the clock. A 3-pointer by sophomore guard Taylor Dodson after the quarter break brought Oglethorpe to within 19, 66-47, with 9:30 left in the contest. Thomas More outscored the visitors 20-11 from there, though, putting the game away down the stretch.
Dodson led the Petrels in scoring on the night, putting in 15 points on 3-of-6 from 3-point range and 2-of-2 from the free throw line, collecting three steals in the process. She was the only Petrel in double figures. Sophomore guard Sydney Long led Oglethorpe with five rebounds, and went 2-for-4 from the field. Junior guards Bailey Charles and Brooke Simpson tied for the team lead with four assists, while freshman forward Audrey Burdge made a couple of blocks on the evening.
"Thomas More was fantastic tonight, and all the credit goes to them," said Oglethorpe head coach Alex Richey. "Their experience in the Big Dance really showed early in the game. I was really happy with how we competed for 40 minutes, which is indicative of who we've been all year. This group of young women has been an absolute joy, and I could not be more proud of them for all of their accomplishments this season. They will be remembered forever as the team that took this program back to the NCAA tournament, and will be the measuring stick for future Oglethorpe teams going forward. Without a doubt, this was the most fun I've ever had with the game of basketball, and it is all because of them."