The Ottawa boys ended a perfect 25-0 season against an opponent that moved down from 5A to 4A and, no doubt, wished it had stayed in the higher division with a better chance to win than face the team from Ottawa. Duke University-bound Semi Ojeleye — recognized as the state’s career and single-season points’ leader — led the way with 27 points in the championship game, but he didn’t shoulder the win himself. Tremendous teamwork from every player combined harmoniously for the ultimate win. The squad’s victory was welcome after being denied a state title during the past three years’ efforts.
This year’s team included starters Kaden Shaffer, Alex Hasty, Dallas Natt, Wyatt Peters and Semi Ojeleye, as well as Tyler Smith, Taylor Graf, Dillon Boeh, Quentin Blaue, Austin Blaue and Jordan Markley. What an amazing team.
Though this isn’t the first time OHS accomplished the feat of earning a state title, it is the first time it has been done in the 4A division. Four decades ago in 1971, the Cyclones won the state 3A boys basketball championship against Kingman at Emporia’s Civic Auditorium. Some members of the 1971 team were in attendance at Saturday’s game.
“We’re sure proud of the big Ottawa crowd that showed up for a premier game,” Charlie Porter, a member of the winning 1971 team, said Monday.
The game was so highly anticipated that spectators from McPherson and Wamego’s 4A girls’ championship game stayed to watch the Ottawa-Highland Park rivalry play out, which resulted in the first-ever sell-out of 6,588 fans for the tournament. Another 1,400 people followed the game on a live-stream broadcast and enjoyed the high-level competition of the fast-paced game.
The celebration continues 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday evening on Ottawa’s Main Street, between Second and Third streets, with a community-wide pep rally. The public can meet the players — plus get autographs and photos with the players, hear from Coach Jon McKowen, enjoy the Cyclone Marching Band, cheerleaders and Cyclonette dancers. The live coach’s show begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday, and everyone is invited to listen. It is a community-wide party for everyone to share in the thrill of victory.
Perhaps OHS Principal Ryan Cobbs summarized it best, saying, “I couldn’t be more proud of our kids. ... While it was great for the players, it was even better for our school and community. I’m very proud to be part of this.”
— Jeanny Sharp,
editor and publisher