That is what it came down to Wednesday night in Wilson Field House. The Ottawa University women’s basketball team had a chance to defeat Sterling, but dwindled away its chances in the final moments.
Sterling took advantage of its dead-eye free throw shooting.
The Lady Warriors’ final 14 points came off charities, including six in the last 43 seconds. Ottawa failed to seal the deal in a 68-63 loss.
“We wanted to keep Sterling off the free-throw line,” Ottawa coach Bruce Tate said. “That is the only way they are able to score. You can’t give them 17 points [in the second half] on the free-throw line. That is their bread-and-butter. They struggle to score if they don’t get to the free-throw line.”
Sterling’s final field goal of the game came with 7:33 left.
Ottawa was in control of its own destiny, but failed to deliver. The Lady Braves led 63-62 and had a 3-on-1 break but turned the ball over with 1:03 left in the game.
Sterling came up with an offensive rebound with 43 seconds left and Ottawa fouled. That started Sterling’s 6-for-6 performance at the line to end the game.
“They executed a little better down the stretch than we did,” Tate said. “We had key turnovers down the stretch. We tried to go for the home run instead of possession basketball. We needed to be solid and be disciplined. We were not able to do that. We have to keep them off the glass.”
All those missed opportunities added up to another loss.
“We have to find ways to win ball games,” Tate said. “We are not playing consistent basketball. It is frustrating. They are doing everything we asked ... except for one or two possessions. We have to put together two halves.
“There is still a lot of basketball left to play. We know what this team is capable of. We have to find ways to get it done. I have to figure out ways to put us in better situations to win.”
Ottawa could not match its offensive production from the first half where the Lady Braves shot 40 percent and led 34-26 at halftime.
Ottawa shot 27 percent from the field in the second half.
“We did not have people knock down open shots in the second half,” Tate said. “We got great looks at the rim.
“We had a lot of key empty possessions where we did not score. We have to learn how to make shots in big moments. We have to convert on easy baskets.
“Our defense was not as intense. Our defense kept us in the game in first half.”
Amber Ramsey and McClure paced Ottawa with 16 points each. McClure also had nine rebounds. Mikayla Skidmore tossed in 12 of her 15 points in the first half.
Ottawa slipped three games behind Sterling for sixth in the conference and just one game ahead of Saint Mary, Bethel and Bethany.
“Every night is a dogfight in this conference,” Tate said. “We have to go on the road and find ways to win.”
Ottawa (7-14, 3-8) plays 5 p.m. today at McPherson.
Sterling (68) — Lucas 2, Dauer 15, Branch 15, Eilert 11, Spleiss 21, Waters 4.
Ottawa (63) — Dowell 4, Ramsey 16, Meier 8, McClure 16, Neptune 2, Skidmore 15, Frazier 2.