Two happened Tuesday night. Ottawa found a way to nip Louisburg, 50-49, while De Soto slipped past Paola, 63-60.
“We will have three or four teams at the top of this thing at the end,” Ottawa coach Cliff McCullough said. “It is going to be crazy. It has been a long time since we have had a competitive league. We have had clear cut champions or co-champions the past four or five years. It will be fun.”
The closeness of the battles will make all the games vital in the twice round-robin format.
“Every game means a little more,” McCullough said. “One of our goals is to repeat as league champions. I believe people want to beat Ottawa. We are going to get everybody’s best shot.
“We are going to win games by one. We are going to lose games by one. It is going to be one of those years. I hope having those games now it helps them grow and mature as a team.”
There was a lot of action from start to finish between Ottawa and Louisburg. The Wildcats had the upperhand for most of the game, but could not close it out.
“They battled to the very last second,” McCullough said of his players. “They showed a little bit of mental toughness. I questioned that last week. You have to have that to play this game.”
Tyra Lyday hit two free throws with 1:13 left to give the Cyclones a 48-47 lead. She missed two with 13 ticks left, but Alexis Roecker rebounded the ball to keep possession for the Cyclones.
Corie Fischer was fouled and hit two free throws with eight seconds remaining to make it 50-47. Louisburg hit two free throws with five seconds left to pull within one.
Ottawa’s defense turned it up a few notches in the fourth quarter. Louisburg was just 2-of-12 from the field in fourth quarter.
“We got three or four straight defensive stops,” McCullough said. “If we can get stops like that, it improves our chances of winning.”
Ottawa had trouble with turnovers all game.
“We can’t turn the ball over like we did and make bad passes,” McCullough said. “Unforced turnovers were a killer for us.”
Lyday saw her game blossom. She became a force on both ends. She blocked a shot and took charge on the offensive end.
She scored 19 of her career-high 26 points in the final two minutes.
“Tyra finally decided to throw us on her shoulders in the third and fourth quarters,” McCullough said. “She got us back within striking distance.
“She has worked hard on her game. She did a really good job of stepping forward and being a leader for us.”
Ottawa (4-2, 1-1) plays Jan. 4 at home against Paola.
Louisburg (49) — Dvorak 16, Moore 13, Hopkins 7, Vaughan 10, Sigg 1, Geiman 2.
Ottawa (50) — Lyday 26, Bones 4, C. Fischer 6, Lewis 7, Weidner 3, Moore 4.