PAOLA — The Ottawa High School girls basketball team has finally discovered its calling card.
The Cyclones don’t play a pretty game, but their success comes from their grit and determination.
Ottawa gave Paola fits Tuesday in Paola. The Cyclones kept coming at the Panthers, who needed a late bucket and free throws to slip past Ottawa, 60-57.
“We are heading in the right direction,” Ottawa coach Cliff McCullough said. “That is two games in a row we played really, really hard-nosed tough basketball.
“It is always going to be a physical battle with Paola. We rose to the challenge. We were down and scratched, clawed and fought our way back.”
Tyra Lyday’s trey with 24 seconds left gave Ottawa a 57-56 lead. Ottawa was down by as many as nine in the game.
“They battled,” McCullough said. “That is all I want from them in every game.”
This group plays through injuries and sickness. Elsie Bones and Lyday played sick.
Alexis Roecker had to be taped up at halftime of the Louisburg game.
Corie Fischer has played through a foot injury where she wears a boot when not playing basketball.
“Two weeks ago we were battling all kinds of things,” McCullough said. “We have come a long ways. Each game we will send a message.
“If you are Paola, do you want to play us again? We are going to be that team everybody is iffy about playing. Some good fortune has to come our way.”
Ottawa is making the plays necessary to win close games.
“Especially in crunch time,” McCullough said. “Before we kind of folded a little bit.
“Tyra has come up huge. During that low point, she was feeling that pressure. She is a little more relaxed.
“Corie hit some big shots.”
Ottawa’s inside players have become active all over the floor.
“Our bigs are playing very athletic,” McCullough said. “Paige Weidner played a heck of a game. Paige went to town. She played a great basketball game.”
The one big negative was the free-throw shooting. Ottawa was 1-of-9 from the line in the fourth quarter.
“We have to hit free throws down the stretch,” McCullough said. “We could have put this game away if we hit some free throws. That really hurt us.”
Lyday paced the Cyclones with 18 points. She hit three treys. Roecker tossed in 14.
Ottawa (8-9) plays 6 p.m. Friday at Baldwin.
Paola (60) — Farmer 15, Moala 6, Williams 7, Johnson 17, Paulsen 10, Louden 7.
Ottawa (57) — Lyday 18, Bones 4, Roecker 14, K. Fischer 3, C. Fischer 7, Lewis 2, Weidner 4, Moore 3.