Stormy Petrels hang on to beat Sewanee in SAA Tournament, advance to semis

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The Oglethorpe women's basketball team got their SAA Tournament started Friday and the Stormy Petrels got out of the gate in a positive fashion, controlling the proceedings throughout in a 61-56 victory over No. 7 seed Sewanee in the first-round matchup between the two teams in Jackson, Mississippi. The Petrels advanced to Saturday's semifinal round with the victory.

The second-seeded Petrels got off to an excellent start, outscoring the Tigers 15-5 in the first quarter. That run continued into the second quarter, as Oglethorpe scored the first four points of the period and took a 19-5 lead with just under eight minutes left in the half. Sewanee answered back with a 6-2 stretch to cut it to 21-11 with 5:40 left until halftime. The two teams largely traded baskets the rest of the half, though, and the Petrels led 29-19 at the break.

Sewanee cut it to a five-point game early in the third quarter, going on a 9-4 mini-run over the first three minutes to make it 33-28 at the five-minute mark. However, Oglethorpe responded with a timely 12-0 run which stretched into the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. They built their largest lead of the game, a 17-point advantage, with 9:20 left. 

The Tigers made a game of it in the fourth quarter, though. From the point at which the Petrels took a 50-33 lead, Sewanee used a 21-9 run over 7:40 to push to within just five, 59-54, with 1:30 still to go. The Petrels played good defense down the stretch, getting a pair of stops on the defensive end. They missed three straight free throws, though, and Sewanee still had a chance. Senior guard Brooke Simpson converted on 1-of-2 to make it 60-54 with 17 seconds on the clock, but another Tiger basket cut it to 60-56 with nine seconds remaining. Sewanee had an opportunity for a three-point play to cut it to a one-possession game, but they missed the free throw. Oglethorpe senior guard Jada Triplett grabbed the board, got fouled, and made a free throw to make it 61-56 with eight seconds left. A steal by senior forward Lauren Ransom sealed the victory.

Triplett led all competitors with 15 points on 5-of-8 from the field overall and 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. Ransom didn't have her best night from the field, scoring nine points on 3-for-11, but she was huge on the boards, collecting 10 rebounds to lead all participants.

The Petrels shot 40.4 percent from the field and were 8-for-24 from 3-point range. They struggled from the line, though, shooting just 52.4 percent. The Petrels held Sewanee to 37.5 percent from the field and 8-for-29 from distance. Sewanee went 6-for-9 from the charity stripe, but the Petrels dominated them on the glass, outrebounding them 43-30. Despite committing four more turnovers than the Tigers, Oglethorpe outscored them 22-9 off takeaways. 

"Tournament play is where you are going to get everyone's best shot," said Oglethorpe head coach Alex Richey, "and I felt like we saw that today with Sewanee. I was proud of the way we responded. I thought we did a good job on the boards and a fairly good job on defense. Offensively, we need to take better care of the ball. A lot of seasons ended around the country today, though, so it's good to still be playing."

The 21-5 Petrels will take on No. 6 seed Centre Saturday at 7 p.m. EST from Jackson. The Colonels upset third-seeded Berry in Friday night's final game.

The Petrels won both games they played against Centre this season in defensive struggles. They beat the Colonels 39-32 Jan. 11 at Dorough Field House and 53-43 Feb. 8 in Danville, Kentucky.