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Ottawa-Paola winner earns home berth in rematch

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald

The Ottawa-Paola boys basketball games are intense. No matter the year or the players, the two teams go hard at each other.

The two rivals will play twice in five days with both games having a big impact on their seasons.

Ottawa High School junior cradles the ball against his body as he drives to the hoop against Baldwin.

The winner of Tuesday’s regular-season game will be the host school for Saturday’s first-round sub-state game between the fourth and fifth seeds.

“They still have a chance to play a home [sub-state] game,” Ottawa coach Cliff McCullough said.There is still a lot to play for. It is something they have worked for. We have a chance to play at home.”

Ottawa earlier this season beat the Panthers on the road.

The Cyclones (7-10) out themselves in position to host with Friday’s 65-52 home win over Baldwin. The victory snapped a three-game losing streak.

“Any win is big,” McCullough said. “We have two games at home next week. With two games left, we have to go and scrape together any win we can get. We need to run the table.”

The journey to the victory over the Bulldogs was a bit rocky. Ottawa opened a double-digit lead at halftime, but Baldwin cut the deficit to one heading into the fourth quarter.

“Everything we got, we gave back,” McCullough told the Cyclones after the third quarter. “You have to go win it now. Our defense is terrible. The press was good in the first half. The second half, we gave it all back. We made a nice little run to get some breathing room.”