The gym was overflowing. The student section was decked out in costumes and loud.
The excitement of a winner-take-all game Saturday just added to the atmosphere.
The Ottawa players — especially the seniors — were determined to make this a night full of memories. This group had never lost a home game.
The Cyclones played one of their most complete games of the season in dismantling De Soto, 73-39. Ottawa earned its sixth straight 4A State Tournament appearance.
Ottawa (22-0) plays 3 p.m. Wednesday in Salina against Anderson County (16-7).
“We knew it would be our last time,” senior Alex Hasty, who scored 21 points, said. “We wanted the fans to have good memory of us leaving. We did not want to end it on a bad note.
“We wanted to get back to Salina. We were not going to lose at home.”
“It is amazing,” Ottawa coach Jon McKowen said of the home streak. “There is no way they would lose this last one.”
The crowd poured in early and packed every available seat.
“Our crowd was crazy,” Hasty said. “We had lots of people there. Everyone knew it was our last time playing in the gym so everyone was extra pumped up. We fed off the crowd and sucked the energy away from the other team.
“It was just not us, but all the elements of a senior night.”
McKowen said the electricity in the gym made it a fun experience.
Steals, transition opportunities, blocked shots and dunks brought out ear-piercing screams from the Cyclone faithful. It fed Ottawa’s big run through the second and third quarters.
De Soto was within 17-11 when the Cyclones turned the heat up several notches. Ottawa went on a huge 39-7 run to open a 56-18 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter.
“It starts on the defensive end,” McKowen said. “You can make the hoop small for teams if you contest shots and don’t let them get paint pass threes. At all times, they have three guys that can flat out shoot it and knockdown multiple shots in a row.
“We had to guard the three-point line. We did a good job of that. After you guard the three-point line, it is tough to rebound. We did an exceptional job of that on both ends.
“Offensively — if we rebound like that — it takes a lot of pressure off that first shot.”
Ottawa scored the first 18 points of the third quarter. Senior Semi Ojeleye netted 16 of the 18 in that spurt.
The senior finished with 27 points after being held to eight in the first half.
“With Semi, you can only hold him down for so long,” McKowen said of state’s all-time scoring leader with 2,657 career points. “It is a matter of time. He did a great job of getting to the hole and the free-throw line. He did not shoot it great.”
But his teammates came up big, especially Hasty, who scored 15 points in the first half.
“I knew they had some weaknesses I could expose,” Hasty said. “I wanted to take some pressure off Semi and Dallas [Natt] from scoring. I wanted to set the tone and get us a solid lead early.
“I have been working on getting my shot going early. I wanted to keep a steady jump shot so they know they will have to guard me out there. It adds another element, so they can’t sag off and help on Semi. They have to come out on me and it opens up lanes for me to drive.”
The excitement of a state tournament never gets old.
“First time ... the sixth time, the joy is the same,” McKowen said. “I am so proud of the kids. Thankful for the time they put in and they get rewarded. This is a great senior class. They deserve to go to the state tournament and play in Salina.
“They are 22-0 for a reason. They do things the right way every day in practice and every single game. The effort is there every single day.”
De Soto (39) — Stallbaumer 4, D. Verhulst 2, Lueth 4, Turner 2, Q. Verhulst 11, Carroll 13, Cardiff 3.
Ottawa (73) — Ojeleye 27, Hasty 21, Peters 4, Shaffer 6, Natt 11, Boeh 2, Graf 2.