Getting defensive stops late in tight games is the next step for the Ottawa High School boys basketball team.
Twice this season teams have made plays in the final seconds to snatch a possible victory from the Cyclones.
Ottawa and state-ranked Piper were tied at 60-60 late in the game. Piper held the ball for the final shot. The Pirates penetrated the Ottawa defense and was fouled with 1.5 seconds left.
Dominique Jennings hit two free throws to send Piper to a 62-60 victory Saturday in Ottawa. Earlier this season, Paola ripped the heart of Ottawa with a last-second bucket to nip the Cyclones in overtime.
“We have to find a way to dig deep late in games like this to get stops,” Ottawa coach Cliff McCullough said. “We preach getting stops in practice. The problem is not the guy that fouled them. It is that they got that deep in the first place.
“We let them do whatever they wanted to do late in the game. We did not stop dribble penetration very well.”
Ottawa showed it can play and possibly beat good teams.
“That is a pretty athletic team,” McCullough said. “We can play with them. In our nonconference schedule, Piper is a great team to have on there. They make you play. They make you execute.”
Ottawa played with a different mindset than it has for the past few games. Ottawa appeared to play free and loose.
“We played more relaxed,” McCullough said. “We played a little looser. Teams like that bring it out in us. Teams want to move and get up and down the floor, we are more in our comfort zone. We came out and played.”
Ottawa controlled the game in the first half, building a 21-11 lead early in the second quarter. Piper tied it at 27-27, but Ottawa led 32-27 at halftime.
The game was tied four times in the second half with several lead changes.
“They took a game plan and executed it,” McCullough said. “We were one or two possessions short of winning that game. We were a couple of defensive stops from winning.
“We took them out of their style of game. Our patience on offense really affected them.”
Ottawa came back from a four-point deficit in the final minute to tie at 60-60.
Ottawa (11-5) plays three of its final four games against ranked opponents.
The Cyclones play today at Paola and Friday at home vs. Baldwin.
“The last four games are not easy,” McCullough said. “Tuesday and Friday will be tough games for us.”
Piper (62) — Harper 4, Jennings 10, Eskino 10, Owens 6, Drew 6, Williams 18, Beebe 2.
Ottawa (60) — McCullough 18, Bunce 4, D. Jung 4, Blaue 15, Smith 6, Matney 8, T. Jung 1, C. Stepp 2, Rich 2.