Braves survive Bethany's upset bid in Wilson

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald
Ottawa University junior Ty Bland shoots over a Bethany defender in the Braves’ narrow victory.

This time of the season all teams in the KCAC are playing to improve their seeding for the upcoming conference tournament.

It makes for interesting games as the season winds down.

Ottawa University and Bethany men’s squads had a lot to play for Saturday in Wilson Field House. Ottawa is in a three-team battle for third-place, while Bethany is still alive to gain a top-four seed.

Ottawa needed a rally after falling behind in the second half. Ottawa was in control with a 49-37 lead early in the second half, but Bethany roared back.

The visitors took a 54-53 lead and the game was on. Ottawa made enough plays to squeeze out an 82-81 victory.

“This was a classic trap game,” Ottawa coach Aaron Siebenthall said. “You beat the No. 1 team in the conference and have an emotional, buzzer beating-type win. You turn around and have a team you beat pretty handidly (earlier).”

Bethany gave Ottawa all it wanted. The Braves had 25 turnovers, which gave Bethany extra possessions.

“We want to play fast, but you can’t play so fast that you turn the ball over that much,” Siebenthall said. “They played really well defensively. They were a lot more aggressive and physical. They are a dangerous team. They can really score the ball.

“They are like us fighting for seeding. Mathmatically they could be a top four seed, which is what a lot of us are reaching for.”

Ottawa is a senior-laden team with experience in winning these types of games. Siebenthall said the Braves leaned on that experience to come away with the win.

“Luckily we have guys that have experience and are tough and make some big plays,” he said. “Perry (Carroll) and Juquan (Daniels) did that for us and solidified that game for us.”

Both hit key shots down the stretch. Daniels fired in a team-best 22 points. He also pulled down seven rebounds, had two assists and three steals.Carroll finished with 18 points. Ian Moore tossed in 19 points.

Siebenthall said Ottawa’s defense was good at times, but not so good in others.

“Defensively, for a long time, we were pretty good,” he said. “There was a stretch for about five minutes, we could not stop them from laying the ball up.”

Ottawa (15-7, 12-7) concludes the regular season this week against Sterling and McPherson. The Warriors invade Wilson on Wednesday, while the Braves hit the road for a key game against the Bulldogs.

“Sterling has been playing well lately,” Siebenthall said. “McPherson is one of the top teams in our league. We are ready for that challenge.”