LEAVENWORTH — The Ottawa University men’s basketball team had a point to prove to themselves and everybody else in the conference.
The Braves were not going to lie down and get run over by the University of Saint Mary squad. That happened in the first meeting in Ottawa.
The Braves came into Leavenworth Thursday set on keeping the Spires from sewing up the regular-season title. Ottawa gave everything, but it was not quite enough. Saint Mary topped Ottawa, 74-59.
Saint Mary (15-2) won the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference championship.
“They are the best team in the conference,” Ottawa coach Andy Carrier said. “We owed it to ourselves and the rest of the league to put our best [effort] out there. We came here trying to win.
“Our mindset was no way we could walk in here with a passive mindset. We took our shot and Saint Mary’s was up for it.”
Ottawa matched Saint Mary with an intense and physical battle all over the floor.
“I thought our guys played their tail off,” Carrier said. “We kept it interesting for a long time. We made them work and made them play.
“They had a hard time scoring on us too. They had a little bit more offense than we did.”
Saint Mary took charge in the first half with its outside shooting. The Spires were nine of 24 from behind the arc in the first half, including hitting six straight treys in an 18-2 run to open a 30-15 lead.
Ottawa scratched back within 35-28 at halftime.
“It was their bigs that stepped out,” Carrier said of those treys. “We brought out the best in several of those guys.”
Saint Mary built a 12-point lead in the second half, but Ottawa rallied back within three at 54-51 with seven minutes left.
“We kept fighting,” Carrier said. “We had some chances.”
Saint Mary stepped it up on defense the rest of the game.
“They are good defensive too,” Carrier said. “Both teams guarded their tails off. They did a fantastic job on Dip. When the officials let you play like that, you have to make tough shots. They made more tough shots than we did.”
Corey Smith paced Ottawa with 17 points and eight rebounds. Kameron Lindsay had 13 points.
Ottawa (9-17, 6-11) plays 6 p.m. today at home against Friends in the regular-season finale. Ottawa sits in seventh place, one game ahead of McPherson and Kansas Wesleyan.
Saint Mary (74) — McGory 2, Heydman 16, Wilcox 18, Williams 8, Dowdy 9, Schneider 14, Harvey 2, Hall 3, Hicks 2.
Ottawa (59) — Smith 17, Regier 6, Brown 2, Lindsay 13, Hasty 8, Rose 6, Feighny 7.