Oglethorpe Falls to Berry in Back-and-Forth Contest

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The Oglethorpe men's basketball team suffered a tough loss Saturday night, dropping a tight 76-73 decision to in-state opponent Berry at Dorough Field House in a game which featured 12 ties and 11 lead changes. The result drops the Stormy Petrels to 6-9 on the season overall, 1-3 in Southern Athletic Association play. 

The Petrels had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer and sophomore guard Chris Lawrence got what appeared to be an excellent look from the left wing as the clock wound down with his team trailing 76-73. However, Berry's Lukas Korn raced to close out on Lawrence and got his fingertips to the shot, earning the potential game-saving block. It came at the end of a second half where the Petrels never trailed by more than seven, but also were unable to push into the lead except for a very brief one-point edge late in the game.

They did get a couple of excellent individual performances, though, with sophomore guard Justin Edwards leading the way with 23 points on 9 of 14 from the field and a perfect 5 for 5 from the charity stripe. In addition, he passed out a game-high six assists. Lawrence also played very well, collecting 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting and 6 of 11 from 3-point range. 

Down 51-44 with 12:13 remaining, the Petrels fought their way back into the game, embarking on a 13-6 run over the next 4:20 to tie the game, 57-57, with 7:13 left. From there, the Petrels never trailed by more than five but were also seemingly never able to grab a lead. Berry built a 66-61 edge with 4:19 remaining but the Petrels fought back to pull to within two with 2:21 left. Then Edwards drove to the rim and scored the tying basket while getting fouled with 1:05 remaining. Hesank the subsequent free throw to give the home side a 71-70 advantage. It was short-lived, however, as Berry quickly sank a pair of free throws and got a stop on the defensive end. The Petrels got the ball back with seven seconds left, but Lawrence's shot at the buzzer was blocked, securing Berry's win.

The first half featured the two teams trading the lead back and forth, with neither team able to build a lead of more than three points over the first 17 minutes. However, Berry pushed out to a 4-point edge with 2:12 to go in the period and built that to a 7-point lead with 30 seconds left, totaling a 10-3 run. They led by five at the break.

For the game, the Vikings shot 53 percent from the floor, including a 59 percent mark in the second half. The Petrels shot 51 percent overall and a whopping 61 percent in the second half.Oglethorpe sank 36 percent from long distance, including 55 percent in the second half, while Berry hit 29 percent of their 3-point shots. Berry shot 77 percent from the free throw line while the Petrels came in at 56 percent. The Vikings outrebounded the Petrels 36-22, including 19-7 in the second half and 14-7 overall on the offensive glass. They outscored the Petrels 52-28 in the paint. 

"Tonight was an incredible college basketball game," said Head Coach Philip Ponder. "Sometimes, the outcome rests on one play, one free throw, one call or one tipped ball. I thought both teams played really well tonight and Berry was just one play better than us. I loved the fight the guys showed tonight. We just couldn't get enough stops in the second half, but it seemed like both teams were scoring at will down the stretch. We'll beat a lot of teams playing the way we did tonight, so I told the guys we shouldn't hang our heads. We just have to move on to the next game. The goal all along has been to play our best basketball at the end of the season."

The Petrels will hit the road Jan. 22-24, embarking on their first conference road trip of the season. They'll take on Rhodes in Memphis, Tennessee, Friday, Jan. 22, at 9 p.m. Eastern before continuing on to Conway, Arkansas, on Sunday, Jan. 24, for a battle against Hendrix at 4 p.m. Eastern.