GOODLAND — The Ottawa High School boys basketball team was cruising toward a sixth straight Topside Tip-Off Tournament title Saturday in Goodland.
Ottawa led 48-21 with just under six minutes left in the third and was up 51-28 with four minutes remaining in the third quarter.
McCook, Neb., turned up the pressure a notch and Ottawa got out of rhythm.
The Bison outscored Ottawa 19-1 in the next eight minutes and later had a chance to tie or take the lead with a made shot.
Ottawa righted itself in the final couple of minutes to hold off the Bison, 62-54, in the championship game. It was Ottawa’s 10th final in the past 11 years.
“We always talk about facing adversity,” Ottawa senior Dallas Natt said. “Today we saw it. We stuck together as a team. We stuck to our game plan. We had to dig down deep and pulled it out.”
Ottawa coach Jon McKowen liked how the Cyclones responded to the Bison’s run.
“You don’t want that [to happen],” he said. “You have to find a way to battle through it. We changed gears towards the end. We found a way to get a win. Every game is different. I hope it exposed a weakness that we can get better at.
“It is good to be put in that situation. You find out a lot about your character. We got tighter together. We were battling through it together.”
The tempo of the game changed in the third quarter. McKowen said Ottawa began to foul and send McCook to the free-throw line the third quarter.
“It is tough to get in any flow offensively,” McKowen said. “Free throws stop the game.
“Both teams played so hard. Every bucket was a tough bucket. We were terrible around the hoop.
“We should be good around the hoop. It will be interesting to watch it on film. We will get it figured out.”
Natt, an all-tournament selection, said Ottawa could not hit shots in the second half.
“We did run our offense the way we usually do,” he said. “The shots were not falling. We had to get to the basket and free-throw line.
“They definitely had a good game plan. Their coach showed them how to defend Semi [Ojeleye]. It showed.”
Ottawa turned to its defense to stave off McCook, which went scoreless the final two minutes.
“All we talked about was not giving up penetration,” McKowen said. “They wanted to penetrate and kick. They did not want to score from the inside.”
Natt and McKowen said having to stave off a rally should be a benefit as the season progresses.
“It is going to get us to realize that people are after us,” Natt said.
McKowen said, “It prepares you for the conference season. They are a physical team.”
Ojeleye was sterling in the tournament. The Duke signee set four tournament records and three single-game marks.
He finished with 41 points in the final to give him a tourney mark of 142 points, which eclipsed his the old mark of 90 he shared with Brewster’s Josh Reid.
The all-tournament selection also set marks for field goals (45), treys (20) and free throws (32).
His single-game marks were 58 points, 23 field goals and nine made treys, which came against Wray, Colo., in the tourney opener.
“You have to have talent,” McKowen said. “You have to do something with it. He works extremely hard. He works harder than anybody I have been around. That is the formula.
“His teammates are unbelievable. If he is open, we don’t miss him very open. He finds different ways. He is a balanced player. It is just not shooting, free throws or inside [shots]. He does it all. We have to keep building around him.”
Ottawa (4-0) plays 7:30 p.m. Friday at De Soto in the Frontier League opener.
McCook (54) — Wudtke 22, Post 7, Backer 10, Alspaugh 4, Gillen 6, Cherry 7, Midkiff 1.
Ottawa (62) — Ojeleye 41, Hasty 2, Peters 2, Shaffer 4, Natt 4, Boeh 4, Graf 1, Morton 2, Q. Blaue 2.
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