Ottawa-Paola round three set for Saturday in Ottawa

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald

It will be like movie Groundhog Day Saturday for the Ottawa and Paola boys basketball teams.

The two rivals went toe-to-toe Tuesday night in Ottawa with the winner getting home court in Saturday’s sub-state game. Ottawa squeaked out a 44-42 victory in back-and-forth game. Ottawa swept the regular season series, but Saturday’s game is an elimination game.

Ottawa High School junior Noah McCullough takes the ball strong into the teeth of the Paola defense.

“One more time with them,” Ottawa coach Cliff McCullough said. “Saturday is going to be tough. It will be a one or two possession game just like it was [Tuesday]. Both teams have struggled. This is not typical [season] for either team. It is a rivalry. There is a lot of respect there.”

The two teams know each other well, playing twice each season. Paola coach Dave Cash and McCullough attempt to make changes from game-to-game.

“Playing for a third time, what we are going to have to do something different,” McCullough said. “We went to the well tonight with the 2-3 zone. We have to come with something different that they are not preparing all week for.”

McCullough expects Saturday’s game to be a battle and come down to the end.

“We can keep the game close and win some games,” he said. “We can do that with Paola because it is a rivalry game. We are better than we were last week. We have to keep plugging away. They have a great opportunity ahead of them. It is going to be fun.”

McCullough said postseason is a different feel and it does not matter what has happened in the past.

“I still believe in these guys,” McCullough said. “I don’t want the season to end Saturday. We have to scratch and claw for wins. We have to grind out [games]. Fight to no end to just get a win. That is who we are.  May be we can grind out a couple more.”

Ottawa (8-10) closes the regular season Friday against Spring Hill. McCullough said that will be an important game for the Cyclones.

“It is an important game because it is the last game of the [regular] season,” he said. “Last year, we lost on a last-second shot. There is a bitter taste in our mouth.

“We want to send our seniors off on a good note.”