Braves need win over McPherson to snare third seed

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald
Ottawa University senior Andre Jackson slices through two Sterling defenders to the basket. Ottawa faces a must-win game Saturday against McPherson.

The Ottawa University men’s basketball team needs a win Saturday afternoon to achieve a goal.

The Braves need a victory over McPherson to secure a top four finish in the conference, which will give them a bye and a home game in the upcoming KCAC tourney.

Heading into the season finale, McPherson (14-8), Ottawa (12-8) and Southwestern (11-8) are battling for the third and fourth seeds.

The winner of the Ottawa-McPherson showdown snares the third seed. Ottawa could slide to fifth with a loss combined with a Southwestern win over Saint Mary, which has one win this season entering Friday’s game against Avila.

“We don’t want to put our fate into anybody’s hands,” Ottawa coach Aaron Siebenthall said. “We need to be ready to go into McPherson and give them our best shot. If we give them our best shot and they beat us, Ok.”

McPherson defeated Ottawa in double overtime earlier this season, handing the Braves one of their three home losses. McPherson is also a strong home team, winning 9 of 11 games at home this season.

Siebenthall said the KCAC is a tough conference night in and night out. Ottawa saw its five-game winning streak snapped by Sterling in overtime Wednesday in Wilson. In the past two weeks, Sterling has beaten Ottawa and McPherson.

“Anybody can beat anybody,” Siebenthall said. “We have seen that time and time again. We have to be prepared. If its a KCAC game, it is going to be a dogfight. Scouting is through the roof in this league. There is a lot of good coaches.”

The coach said Ottawa needs to come play with the right mindset against the Bulldogs.

“I know there are tough enough basketball players in the locker room to bounce back and get ready for McPherson on Saturday,” he said. “The next game is the most important one. We have to worry about playing the best basketball we can.”

The Braves’ level of play dipped against Sterling and Siebenthall credited that to the mental approach and the Warriors believing they could pull the upset.

“We were not into the game emotionally,” he said. “We were not the same team defensively. Offensively, we were not sharing the ball like we can. We were taking bad shots that basically were turnovers. We have to play better and play harder.”

Siebenthall said there was no need to panic after the Sterling loss.

“We can’t abandon ship,” he said. “We have good players and a good team. We have plenty of guys that can score. If the ball moves, it is going to find the right guy.”