The Ottawa High School girls coaching staff can’t wait to start working for next season.

First-year coach Matt Schurman saws a lot of growth from a young Cyclone team this season. Ottawa loses two players to graduation and returns a bevy of experienced players. Schurman said there were glimpses of how good Ottawa can be this season and wants to take that to another level.

Ottawa (5-16) opened the season in December against state-ranked Piper and closed the season Tuesday against the same Piper team in sub-state. The Pirates topped Ottawa 64-36.

“Our team was a completely different team out there,” Schurman said. “We talked after the game how much they grew as a team. It became more about ‘we’ than ‘I’. These girls have made tremendous strides in becoming basketball players and better people through our journey this year. A journey where we have seen highs and lows. I hope they can be proud of what we achieved this year.”

Ottawa remained within strking distance of Piper for most of the first half, even leading the state-ranked squad in the first quarter.

“We had them rattled for a little bit,” Schurman said. “Piper is a phenomenal team. They are deep and good at a lot of things. We cut down the deficit. That first half, we did a wonderful job. We were able to compete against Piper in areas. We played Eudora hard. We played Baldwin hard. We were able to send a message to people in this [league] that Ottawa is going to be somebody they are going to have to be worried about.”

Schurman said the players gave several good teams a run for short periods of time.

“We had glimpses of how good we are going to be,” Schurman said. “This summer we will get to working and hopefully extend those glimpses out to halves and full games. They did a great job this year of not quitting. It is hard to be down 20 and 30. It shows a lot of character when a team continues to fight and try to get better during those times. If you are not part of what we are doing, it is hard to see how much mentally from a basketball IQ standpoint, the growth we have seen.”

Ottawa had trouble all season matching up physically against teams. Schurman said Ottawa battled inside against taller players.

“It is tough when you are undersized and trying to rebound,” he said. “What hurt us was offensive rebounds in the first half [against Piper]. If we were able to eliminate some of them in the first half, it would have been different.”

Schurman said the players have been resilient playing different systems of the various coaches of the past few years.

“The girls have adapted so well,” he said. “We put in some things three days ago for Piper. They did a phenemenal job at [executing] tonight.”

Schurman was thankful for the leadership of seniors Ashlynn Evans and Brittny Hornbuckle.

“Our seniors have been big,” he said. “The seniors have done a good job of keeping up team morale. They are good at setting example outside of themselves in what it means to be a leader.”