The Cyclones fired in 10 of their 11 treys in the first half. Ottawa went on to build a 20-point lead in the second half over Paola and cruised to a 67-52 victory.
“We knocked down a couple of shots and that got us going,” Ottawa coach Cliff McCullough said. “We have not been shooting the ball very well. Unfortunately the last four or five games we have not shot like that.
“Maybe we have turned the corner. We had these guys in shootaround on the machine shooting. It paid off. We needed to get in the gym and get some reps up.”
Once the shots started falling, Ottawa turned up the defensive pressure on Paola.
“It was one of the best defensive games we have played,” McCullough said. “We frustrated them. They could not get the ball inside. It affected their outside shot.
“Our man defense was really good. We switched it up to conserve energy and give them a change of pace.”
Paola’s trio of Mason McDow, Cayman Long and Lucas Wilson combined for 61 of the Panthers’ 65 points in their 65-64 overtime win earlier this season. The three players combined for 31 points in Tuesday’s game.
“We can limit their touches and scoring by keeping them off balance. We executed pretty well.”
McCullough was not sure how the players would respond to his pregame prodding.
“I can’t read these guys,” he said. “I tried to get them going in the locker room before the game. Look ‘this is Paola.’ They were stoic. They did it on the floor.
“We lit it up. When you can shoot like that it makes life really easy. That is back to where we shot started the season. We played relaxed. We controlled things.”
Ottawa’s depth paid dividends as the Cyclones wore down the Panthers. Ottawa increased its lead to 63-43 with 2:46 left.
“We made them work,” McCullough said. “We wore them down with our patience on offense. We got depth. That is what we have to do to teams.”
Ottawa was led by Isaac McCullough with 27 points. The freshman hit five treys.
Cole Bunce tossed in 13 points. Tyler Smith hit three treys en route to 11 points.
Ottawa (12-5, 7-2) plays at home Friday against third-ranked Baldwin (7-2) with the league title on the line.
Paola (52) — McDow 10, Long 11, Wilson 10, Henn 4, Criddle 4, Jorgensen 2, A. Wilson 2, Wokutch 3, Slawson 3, Froeschle 3.
Ottawa (67) — McCullough 27, Bunce 13, Blaue 8, Smith 11, Matney 5, T. Jung 3.