The Lady Braves (15-14) posted their first winning season in the seven years under Bruce Tate. Ottawa finished fourth in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference and earned a home game in the KCAC tourney.
The season came to an end Wednesday with a 75-64 loss to Kansas Wesleyan in Wilson Field House. The tough loss did not overshadow what Tate called “an amazing turnaround.”
“The leadership was tremendous,” Tate said. “I owe it all to the senior class. The growth started to happen at the end of last season when I asked them if they fully committed to the program. That was a good sign for us.
“We challenged them to be better people, but also be better basketball players. From that day forth, we did not lose anybody we are supposed to return. For everyone to recommit to the program, we knew we were moving in the right direction.”
The returners grew closer together and accepted the two freshmen.
“In the fall, we had an itch that we would be OK,” Tate said. “I tried to get this group not to doubt themselves. Once they started believing in each other, they won some big games.”
In the nonconference, Ottawa topped ranked teams such as Baker and Columbia College.
“Winning games are definitely important. I want to be that coach to push the program to the next level. We earned that respect to get those teams on the schedule. The success we had this year is good. What we do makes a big difference. It is good to see those results. It is good to say we are a winning program.”
Ottawa saw a lot of zone defense this season.
“There were some games we would move the ball so well that we were tough to stop,” Tate said. “No team wanted to guard us man-to-man. We earned some respect by executing early. Teams did a great job of taking us out of what we wanted to do. It was tough to react to that. We don’t have the shooters and consistent penetration.”
Kansas Wesleyan made it tough on the Ottawa offense.
“We worked for every single point,” Tate said. We should get some easy looks. It was tough to score.
“We showed good fight at the end. We made a run, but we were not getting stops. We are not a team that can give up 70-plus points. We are not a team that can allow a team to shoot 34 free throws.”
Tate said the five seniors left behind a nice legacy for others to follow.
“They left the program better than what they came in,” he said. “Any group that can do that that is an accomplishment.”