The Cyclones push each other hard during those practices and come out swinging to start the January schedule.
Ottawa had one of those type of games again Friday in a 77-30 win over Paola in a packed OHS gym.
“First game [back] always scares me,” McKowen said. “It feels like the first game of the season. They have worked hard. It showed. They got better.”
Ottawa quickly took control with a 15-0 spurt in the first quarter and never looked back. Ottawa led 24-6 at the end of the first quarter and extended it to 31-6.
“They kept their focus [in the break],” McKowen said. “We got great shots [in the first half]. Semi [Ojeleye] got it rolling. We found him every time he was open.”
The senior all-stater put on a show for the full house. He poured in 56 points and netted a school-tying record nine treys. He did all of that in three quarters.
It was his third game of scoring 50 points or more and just two shy of his career high of 58 set earlier this season.
“They got down and dirty,” McKowen said. “They are diving on the floor. They care about playing defense. It shows.”
Ottawa led 51-20 at halftime and came out sluggish to start the second half, but picked it up after a couple of minutes. That was progress. Ottawa played a sluggish second half against Louisburg right before break.
“We have to come out of halftime better,” McKowen said. “We found that second gear. We will find negatives in the game. It was not perfect. We have things to work on.”
Ottawa’s depth showed with Dallas Natt nursing a hurt wrist. Dillon Boeh and Tyler Smith, who had eight points, kept the offense humming along.
“We have great depth,” McKowen said. “That is why they compete in practice.”
McKowen reiterated he would like more minutes for the reserves, but there is just so many to give out.
Ojeleye was hot in the first half, scoring 39 points. He hit seven treys. He had 22 in the first quarter, 17 in the second and 19 in the third. He swished his ninth trey as the buzzer sounded to end the third quarter.
The fourth quarter was played with a running clock.
The Ottawa junior varsity won 54-44.
Top-ranked Ottawa (8-0, 3-0) plays 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at home against Baldwin.
Paola (30) — Wilson 9, Long 6, Gochenour 3, Henn 3, Criddle 4, O’Brien 3, McDow 2.
Ottawa (77) — Ojeleye 56, Hasty 5, Peters 4, Natt 1, Boeh 2, A. Blaue 1, Smith 8.