The Ottawa High School boys basketball team’s schedule in the first half was as tough as anybody’s in 4A. The squad played top-ranked Piper twice, tradition-rich Raytown South and Topeka squads — Highland Park, Shawnee Heights, Topeka West and Washburn Rural.
Ottawa posted a 5-5 mark in those first 10 games.
“It is really tough,” Ottawa coach Cliff McCullough said of the first 10 games. “I hope it pays dividends for us. I hope it prepares us for the end. That is why we do it. I would not do it normally with any team. I thought with this team, we could beat some of these teams. We competed with these teams. I still feel like I can put this team up against any classification of team, we will compete. We did not always win. We did against Washburn Rural. That was a great win for our program. We had a chance to beat Ray South. We were in control and had the game. We let that slip away.”
McCullough said those type of teams attack your weaknesses. He said those teams do pressure you and hopes when this team gets into postseason and sees that kind of pressure, it will not bother them. The coach said the tough teams were a challenge to this team, guided by six seniors.
“I won’t back down from anybody,” McCullough said. “We would like to have three or four more wins. I can’t help but think we are going to be a better team in the end for it. I like to win, but also believe in being prepared. I want to have them prepared the best I can have them prepared.”
Another drawback to the schedule this season has been the inconsistency of playing because of the weather.
We have not felt like there has not been any flow to our schedule,” McCullough said. “We get into the (Bashor-Linwood) tournament and it gets postponed. We then played on Monday. We can take a breath now and relax. We are Tuesday-Friday (now).”
Ottawa returned to its league schedule Friday night against Eudora with all but one game to finish the season will be against league foes.
“We are going to get into our league schedule and they know us really well,” McCullough said. “We are going to be the better team from here on out. Every game we play, we are going to be the favorite. Eudora know us and they are well-coached. We better be ready to play every single night. Hopefully those first 10 games prepared us to play every single night.”
Ottawa opened the second half of the season Monday night with a 71-56 victory over Blue Valley Southwest. Ottawa faced a 31-30 halftime deficit and dominated the second half. Ottawa rolled to a 19-point lead in the second half.
“The second half was about as good as I’ve seen us play,” McCullough said. “I challenged them at halftime to find that team that played Washburn Rural. Play that kind of defense. We really limited them to taking shots they did not want to take. We limited them to one shot per possession. We came down offensively and got what we wanted. It was great execution. It was a whole team effort.”
Ottawa plays Tuesday at home against Louisburg.