The energy was a high as ever in the Ottawa High School gym. It was standing room only Tuesday for the Ottawa season openers.
The student section was in force decked out in Christmas attire and sweaters. The top-ranked Ottawa boys gave them plenty to yell about.
The Cyclones were in rhythm offensively and defensively in a 70-34 victory over Louisburg.
“You love the crowd,” Ottawa coach Jon McKowen said. “How are you going to respond it? They played like nobody was in the gym.”
It was not just the Semi Ojeleye show. Ottawa pushed the tempo and passed the ball deftly between teammates.
“We passed it on time,” McKowen said. “We had good flow in the offense. It starts on the defensive side. We had great intensity.
“Anytime we were in trouble somebody’s flying in to take a charge. It was great effort in the first half on both sides.”
Ottawa senior Alex Hasty said the Cyclones worked on the offense hard in practice.
“We want to make good habits for games 21 through 26,” he said. “We have been focusing on our sets in practice. If we run our sets the right way, good things will happen.”
A lot of good things happened from Dallas Natt going coast-to-coast to Ojeleye’s dunk off a steal that sent the student section into a frenzy.
Ottawa’s defense blocked shots and took charges. The Cyclones owned the boards.
Hasty said Ottawa should have that type of rebounding edge in every game. McKowen said Ottawa was in the right spots and blocked out, which fueled the transition game.
“We want to push because of our depth. It is solid all the way through,” McKowen said. “We don’t want the game sitting in the half court. That eliminates your depth.
“It tests mental toughness when you play that fast.”
Ottawa was in complete control of the final 29 minutes. Louisburg was within 11-7 with three minutes gone by in the first quarter. Ottawa kicked it in overdrive. Ottawa went on a 24-2 run and outscored the Wildcats 36-6 in the final 13 minutes of the first half to open a 47-13 halftime lead.
“The bench guys did a great job,” McKowen said. “They make it tough for me in practice. They make it tough for me in games. They are finding roles.
“They are doing everything they can do to make the team better. They deserve more minutes, but there is not enough to go around.”
One of those bench players that stood out was senior guard Dillon Boeh.
“Dillon played great tonight,” McKowen said. “Dallas had some foul trouble. We did not miss a beat. He got us in our offense and did a great job on defense [taking charges]
“Little things win big games. We had easy shots in transition. What I like is every time there is a loose ball they are fighting each other to dive on the ground. That is maturity.”
The Cyclones were not as crisp in the second half, which bothered McKowen.
“We did not have the same energy,” he said. “That is the biggest negative coming out of the game. We have to learn how to play the full 32 minutes no matter the situation. We did not do a good job of that.”
Ojeleye gave the crowd many awe moments en route to 35 points. The Duke signee scored 15 in the first quarter and added 12 in the second quarter.
Ottawa improved to 7-0 and does not play again until Jan. 4 at home against Paola.
Louisburg (34) — Stambaugh 10, Sander 8, Wertz 10, Storey 2, Steffy 4.
Ottawa (70) — Ojeleye 35, Hasty 4, Peters 4, Shaffer 4, Natt 7, Markley 6, A. Blaue 4, Graf 3, A. Blaue 3.