The KCAC basketball teams go at each other hard, no matter the circumstances. Tabor, which began the week winless in the conference, picked up two wins.
McPherson, who is battling Ottawa and Oklahoma Wesleyan for the title, went on the road and dropped a game against Sterling. The No. 7 Ottawa squad, the KCAC leaders, dropped a game to Bethel and was in a fight Saturday at home against Friends.
The Braves persevered with a 91-86 victory in Wilson Field House. That win, coupled with Southwestern’s road victory over Oklahoma Wesleyan, gave the Braves a one-game lead in the KCAC.
Ottawa coach Aaron Siebenthall said there are no easy games in the conference. He said Friends came into Saturday with hopes of drawing within striking distance of the Braves with a victory.
“We have six games left and there is not an easy one on the schedule,” Siebenthall said. “We have three more weeks of grinding and battling. If we show up and play hard, I like our chances of winning this conference.”
Friends gave Ottawa fits with its screening and sharp-shooting. The Falcons shot 51% from the floor.
“They have some guys that can score on their team,” Siebenthall said. “They are fast and athletic. We have to play better ball screen defense going forward. We will work on that.”
Ottawa trailed 39-38 at halftime but exploded for 53 points in the second half.
“We did not quite have the juice and energy that we normally been playing with,” Siebenthall said. “It is typical. It is a long season. I am glad we did not drop one at home. Our guys made good adjustments. They made adjustments mentally. That was a toughness win. Our guys kept battling and making little plays. Once we were able to slow them down, we were able to run and scored 53 points in the second half. We were rebounding the ball instead of taking it out of the net.”
Ottawa led by 12 with four minutes remaining, but Friends sliced the deficit to 87-86 with under 50 seconds left in the game.
“Our guys made the plays down the stretch when we needed to,” Siebenthall said. “That is something we did not do against Bethel.”
Jaquan Daniels paced the Braves with 21 points, six rebounds and two steals. Mason McDow netted 17 points and four assists.
Siebenthall said McDow gave Ottawa lift with his play.
“Mason McDow stepped up and showed some fight inside,” he said. “If Mason plays like that, we will play through him in the post. He is also a good passer.”
Ryan Haskins finished with 12 points. Mallory Jackson led Ottawa with five assists.
Ottawa (20-4, 14-4) plays 8 p.m. Wednesday at home against Avila.