KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Ottawa High School boys basketball team is primed to make a run at the state tournament. The Cyclones return six seniors and understand how to play together.
“We had a great summer,” Ottawa coach Cliff McCullough said. “They worked their tails off. For nine months, we were in the weight room four days a week. It means something to them.”
Ottawa displayed that pride and talent Friday night against the 4A defending state champion Piper Pirates in Kansas City, Kan. Ottawa gave them everything they had for most of three quarters, before Piper pulled away for 66-51 victory.
“They are good,” McCullough said. “They are long and athletic. We got tired. We are only seven deep. Hopefully, we get a little more depth. We spent everything in the first half. We need to get in better condition. We will be okay. We proved we could play with them. We came out and took it to them. We can play that way. We need to find a way to sustain that. Three or four minutes in, I said, ‘Boys, this is a track meet. I don’t know if we can go the distance in this sprint.' It was a lot of fun.”
Ottawa jumped to a 10-4 lead early and the game was tied 31-31 at halftime. The second half was a different story as Piper clamped down on Ottawa senior Kobe Johnson.
“We were having a lot of success early,” McCullough said. “They are going to make adjustments and changes to how they are going to guard (Kobe Johnson). We still have to go to him. He was hot. We have to work on that. When they really adjust their defense, we have other guys that have to step up and knock down shots.”
Ottawa ran out of gas in the second half and made a lot of mistakes, which led to easy baskets.
“You get tired and have a lack of judgement,” McCullough said. “We threw the ball away like crazy late. When you do that to Piper, they will make you pay. They have such balance shooting, attacking. That is why they won it last year.”
Ottawa (0-1) plays a tough early schedule dotted with power programs. Ottawa plays at tradition-rich Highland Park on Tuesday night.
“They return everybody from last year,” McCullough said. “It was a two-point game last year. We return everybody. It will be a good game. They are trying to turn a program around. They have something to fight for. You have to turn around and play the same type of team Tuesday night. If you want to go to Salina, you are going to have to beat teams like that. You have to find a way to do it. We will be challenged every night.”
Johnson — one of the top players in the state — led the Cyclones with 27 points. He made 12 field goals.
Piper (66) — Bates 33, Taylor-Cantu 15, Eskina 8, Briggs 6, Arndt 4.
Ottawa (51) — Johnson 27, Quillen 9, Gollier 6, Brown 6, Moore 3.