The Cyclones were down 32-15 to the Tigers. Ottawa — which returned nine seniors from last year’s team — had a similar situation in the 2012 sub-state semifinal against Spring Hill.
Ottawa trailed the Broncos by 15 just seconds into the second half and rallied for a 60-56 victory.
The Cyclones put together a similar second-half performance and it produced a 58-52 win.
Ottawa (12-0) plays 7:30 p.m. today in the championship game for the third straight year against Basehor-Linwood. It is also a rematch of last year’s state championship game won by the Bobcats.
Ottawa went to a trapping defense to turn the game around just like against Spring Hill.
The Cyclones did not panic because of past experiences.
“When you have nine seniors — we have been playing together since we have been in diapers — we have been through things like this before,” Semi Ojeleye said. “Coach [Jon] McKowen has been through this before. It was about making right decisions and battling through it.
McKowen does his best to put the Cyclones in different situations in practice so the players understand what to do in these circumstances.
“We were on the same page,” he said. “We got enough stops. Thankfully they are seniors and they were able to refocus in the second half. We talked about things we could do to take advantage of them on defense [at halftime]. One was the press ... trap the ball screens. We tried to change the tempo. We needed to speed it up a little.”
Ottawa put the game in overdrive in the fourth quarter where the Cyclones scored 27 points.
“We finally had flow offensively in the fourth quarter,” McKowen said. “We had to score fast. We could not really run too many sets. It was not a perfect quarter by any means.”
Ojeleye shouldered more of the scoring load than usual with other the Cyclones struggling. He scored 23 of his 45 points in the fourth quarter. He netted 77 percent of Ottawa’s points.
“I had to step up,” Ojeleye said. “I felt like I could make shots. I had to get to the rim and get fouled. Sometimes shots don’t fall.
“It is like being in the gym alone. You practice for those moments. “Then it is up to God.”
McKowen said Ojeleye, who played the full game, showed how his workouts benefitted him.
“That was the difference in him putting himself in shape,” McKowen said. “He was strong through the fourth quarter. He was tired and played through it. He won us one tonight.”
Ottawa turned the game around in the third quarter and came within six, but a 5-0 spurt late in the quarter bumped the Tiger lead to 11 at 42-31 entering the fourth quarter.
“It was gut check time,” McKowen said. “The kids kept battling. We did a much better job of putting our head down and getting to the hoop ... getting to the free-throw line to extend the game.”
Dallas Natt finished with 11 points.
McKowen said the first half mental effort on offense was lacking. The defense was not good either.
“It was disappointing,” he said. “We went heavy on the scout. We did not respond to it.”
Blue Valley (52) — Hurst 16, Little 7, Marquardt 12, Sundquist 6, Brady 2, Renikemeyer 3, Stafford 4.
Ottawa (58) — Ojeleye 45, Peters 1, Shaffer 1, Natt 11.