The next step for the Ottawa High School boys basketball team is to find a way to win close games against top-flight competition.

Ottawa has given everyone fits for most of the game, but have come up short in the end against the likes of Piper, Highland Park and now Topeka West. The Chargers pulled away late Thursday to edge Ottawa, 68-61, in Topeka.

Ottawa coach Cliff McCullough saw the same recipe in all three losses.

“When we go out and play the Highland Parks, Topeka Wests, Pipers and Shawnee Heights, and next week Washburn Rural, we have to believe we can win,” he said. "We are going to be in the game. We have to know how to win it in the end. We can win and have all the confidence playing in the Frontier League. They have to learn how to win those tough, close games.”

Ottawa and Topeka West have played tight games for the past few years.

“It always comes down to the last two or three minutes of the game,” McCullough said. “This game between our two schools has never been a blowout. It is always been tight. It will make us better.”

McCullough said those athletic teams make those late runs because of little mistakes.

“Games like that come down to a handful of possessions,” McCullough said. “We got to learn how to make those right decisions. We have to take care of the ball. We can’t travel, double-dribble. We can’t have unforced errors. All of those things we’ve got to do a better job of if we are going to win these type of games. We need to win one so we know we can.”

McCullough said the Cyclones (4-3) are looking forward to the challenge of facing Washburn Rural and the rest of the tournament field.

“Win or lose, you will get challenged for the next three games,” he said. “It is the best tournament in the state. It is good from top-to-bottom.”