The Oglethorpe men's basketball team saw their season end in heartbreaking fashion Friday night in Memphis, Tennessee, in the first round of the SAA Tournament, as third-seeded Birmingham-Southern came back from 18 points down to take the lead in the game's final minute and win 62-59. The result ended the Stormy Petrels' season at 10-16 overall, eliminating them from the tournament.
The Petrels shot an outstanding 48 percent from the field overall and 55 percent from 3-point range in the first half, all the while holding the Panthers to just 22 percent from the field overall and 26 percent from distance. They did this despite being outrebounded 28-11 overall and 15-2 on the offensive glass by Birmingham-Southern. However, the Panthers' dominance on the offensive glass caught up with Oglethorpe in the second half.
They finished the game with a 56-30 rebounding edge and a 26-11 advantage in offensive rebounds. This allowed them to outscore the Petrels 21-6 in second chance points. The game ended with the Petrels still outshooting the Panthers, but only by a 34-to-32 percent margin, as Oglethorpe shot just 19 percent in the second half. The Petrels hit 23 percent of their second half 3-pointers, and converted on 38 percent of their shots from distance for the game compared with Birmingham-Southern's 28 percent. Oglethorpe also shot just 58 percent from the foul line.
Individually, Oglethorpe got solid performances from several players. Senior forward Drew Patrick scored 20 points in his final collegiate game, converting on 6 of 12 overall shots and 5 of 9 from 3-point range while also adding 3 steals. Sophomore center Tom Inungu added 14 points on 6-of-6 from the foul line while also pulling down 8 rebounds and blocking 4 shots. Senior guard George Andino was on fire off the bench in the early going, making all three of his 3-point shots in the first half. He finished with 12 points on 4-of-7 from long distance. Junior guard Justin Edwards contributed 11 points and 4 assists.
After the Panthers took a very early 4-0 lead, the Petrels jumped all over them over the game's opening 15 minutes. They held a 4-2 lead with just over two minutes gone in the game, and it was the last lead they held until the game's final minute. Oglethorpe quickly embarked on a 30-8 run over a 12:30 stretch, playing outstanding defense and hitting shots both from long distance and from the paint. They took a 30-12 lead with 5:11 to go in the opening half, an advantage that turned out to be their largest.
The Panthers started to work their way back in late in the half, though. They went on an 11-2 run late in the period and closed the Petrel advantage to 32-23 with a minute to go before halftime. An Oglethorpe basket made it 34-23 at the break, but the Panthers continued their run into the second half. Bridging across the halftime break, they outscored Oglethorpe 15-4 over a 6:10 stretch and cut the Petrel lead to seven points, 34-27.
However, Oglethorpe responded and seemingly restored order with a 6-1 mini-run, making the score 40-28 with 16:03 remaining. The Panthers got right back on the comeback trail, though, going on a 14-4 run to cut the Oglethorpe lead all the way down to two, 47-45, with 7:09 left. Oglethorpe pushed it back up to a 6-point edge with four straight free throws, but five straight Panther points got them to within a single point, 51-50, with 4:06 left. The Petrels again hit four straight free throws to take a 55-50 lead with 2:57 remaining, but Birmingham-Southern kept coming.
They tied the game, 57-57, with 1:28 left, then after an Oglethorpe free throw gave them a 1-point lead, got a basket at the other end to give them a 59-58 edge with 50 seconds remaining. They went up by two with 20 seconds left, but Edwards got fouled on a drive to the basket with 14 seconds remaining. He made 1 of 2, but the Petrels got the offensive rebound and got another chance. They had two chances to take the lead on that final possession, including a putback attempt by Inungu that stayed on the rim for seemingly a couple seconds, but couldn't get anything to go down. The Panthers got the rebound with less than a second left and secured victory from there.
"I thought we came out playing great," said Oglethorpe head coach Philip Ponder. "The first 15 minutes, everything was going our way. We didn't end the half quite as well as we could have, but we still had an 11-point lead. Their size just wore us down in the second half. We tried to hold them at bay, and held on until less than a minute was left, but couldn't quite finish it. We went ice cold in the second half and missed a lot of shots we normally make. We still got a great look at the very end, but it just rolled out. This is one of the more heartbreaking losses we have had, but I'm still extremely proud of how the guys turned things around and finished this season so strong."