The Oglethorpe women's basketball team clinched the first outright league regular season title in the program's history Sunday afternoon in Danville, Kentucky, defeating the homestanding Centre Colonels 65-52 to ensure themselves sole possession of the 2017-18 SAA crown, along with the No. 1 seed and hosting duties for the SAA Tournament Feb. 23 through 25. The victory improved the Stormy Petrels to 18-6 on the season overall and 11-2 in SAA play.
After clinching a share of the conference title on Friday, the Petrels followed up with an outstanding road performance on Sunday to clinch the No. 1 seed and the outright title, shooting 44 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range while holding Centre to 35 and 36 percent, respectively. The Petrels forced 21 Centre turnovers and outscored the Colonels 26-20 in the paint en route to leading by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter.
The Petrels jumped out to a 7-0 lead early against Centre, then maintained their arm's-length advantage throughout most of the first quarter, eventually building to an 18-7 lead at the 1:05 mark of the quarter with a 9-2 run over a 3-minute stretch. The Colonels scored five straight points to cut the Oglethorpe lead to 18-12 at the end of the first quarter, though, and continued that run into the second quarter, making it a 15-2 run in all over almost eight minutes and taking a 22-20 lead with 3:15 remaining in the first half. They were helped by Petrel foul trouble, as Oglethorpe freshman center Savannah LeGate and sophomore forward Karlymarie Dyer each committed two personal fouls in the first quarter and Dyer had three at the half. The Petrels restored order quickly, though, running off nine consecutive points late in the second to retake a 7-point lead. They eventually entered the halftime break up 29-24.
As the second half began, the Petrels kicked things into high gear, both offensively and defensively. They outscored Centre 20-8 over the course of the period and shot 50 percent from the field while holding the Colonels to 22 percent. They led 49-32 at the end of the third period and continued to push their advantage headed into the fourth. The Petrels eventually built a 55-35 lead with 6:29 remaining in the game. In all, Oglethorpe went on a 35-13 run after Centre briefly took a 2-point lead late in the second quarter, taking complete control of the contest. The home side was able to pull it a bit closer down the stretch, but the damage had already been done, and the Petrels cruised to a 13-point win.
For the game, sophomore guard Taylor Dodson led the Petrels with 18 points on 6-of-10 from the field, 2-of-3 from 3-point range and 4-of-4 from the free throw line while grabbing six rebounds and recording a pair of steals. Freshman center Savannah LeGate added 12 points with three assists and three steals, while freshman guard Audrey Burdge scored seven points off the bench on 3-of-6 shooting and made four steals while grabbing five rebounds.
"Our program has come so far this year," said Oglethorpe head coach Alex Richey, "and it's all a credit to a group of young women who have bought into what we have asked of them each and every day. I am honored to be their coach and blessed to have them as a part of my life. Our staff has worked extremely hard to put them in a position to be successful each and every night, and I'm forever grateful for their hard work this year. This is a special day for all of us and for our program, and we hope to continue our run back in Atlanta in a couple weeks."
"Regarding today's game specifically, I was really impressed with our character," Richey continued. "We fought through some foul trouble with our forwards in the first half, but I thought we really started to hit our stride in the third quarter. We were able to get into a rhythm on the offensive end and get to the foul line more. Defensively, we made sure that every Centre shot was contested and our communication was as good as it's been all year."
Before hosting the SAA Tournament at Dorough Field House, the Petrels have one more regular season game. They'll travel up to northwest Georgia to take on Berry at 6 p.m. Saturday before returning home and getting ready for postseason play.