PLANO — Ottawa boys basketball coach Mark Cooper said his squad didn’t feel like underdogs going up against No. 2 seed Seneca Thursday night at the Plano Christmas Classic.
The 10th-seeded Pirates proved why.
Ottawa used a strong defensive effort and a 19-point performance from junior forward John Carroll to pick up a 39-35 quarterfinal win over the Fighting Irish, who entered with a perfect 11-0 record.
“I wouldn’t say we felt like underdogs but we knew we were playing a very good basketball team tonight and it was going to take a good effort,” Cooper said. “It was too bad it was an 8:30 game on a weekday because this was an entertaining basketball game that a lot of people would have really enjoyed watching.”
With the victory, Ottawa (8-3) advances to semifinal action against No. 11 seed Kaneland at 8:30 tonight.
After a slow-scoring first half, Ottawa went into the locker room trailing 13-11, but fell behind 23-14 midway through the third on a pair of free throws from Seneca’s Brian Bergeson after an intentional foul call.
The Pirates responded with an 8-0 rally.
J.D. Bryant started the OTHS run with a 3-pointer from the left side set up by a Seneca turnover, and Carroll capitalized off a second straight turnover from the Irish with an old-fashioned three-point play after drawing a foul on a drive and basket in the lane.
After three more consecutive turnovers from the two teams, Bryant once again made Seneca pay for its offensive gaffe as he knocked down a teardrop floater in the lane to pull the Pirates within one at 23-22 with 40 seconds left in the third.
After trading baskets in a wild sequence, Carroll put the Pirates on top (26-25) for the first time in the second half with a layup off another Seneca turnover.
“Defense always leads to good offense,” Carroll said.
The junior standout collected another three-point play to open the fourth quarter, and three minutes later added a 3-pointer from the left corner to put OTHS up 32-28 after a Seneca threatened to reclaim the momentum with a Peyton Schrag trey.
Carroll’s return fire from the right side was followed up by an Irish turnover and subsequent basket in the lane from center Jacob Draper off the give-and-go to put Ottawa up 34-28 with 3:50 left.
The Pirates managed to hold off a Seneca charge down the stretch with a 3-pointer from Bryant and a pair of free throws from Carroll to secure the win.
“They put a nice surge on us in the third quarter and I thought we were starting to maybe come unglued a little bit in terms of them going up nine. We talked about having composure and from that point on we played very good basketball,” Cooper said.
Carroll led all scorers with his 19 points and added five steals. Bryant finished with eight points for OTHS.
“You’ve got to give credit to Seneca. They played great defense the whole game, but the third quarter we finally got shots to start falling and we kind of got a roll going. That’s all we needed,” Carroll said.
Schrag led Seneca with 10 points, while teammate Chris Lee hauled in a game-high nine rebounds.
Mendota 92, Wilmington 53
The Trojans rebounded from their opening-game setback with a lopsided win over Wilmington in the ninth-place bracket.
Mendota led 17-13 after the first quarter and blew the game open over the next two frames as it outscored Wilmington 47-29 over the second and third quarters.
Senior center Austin O’Sadnick led the Trojans with team highs of 21 points and 16 rebounds. Trae Blumhorst had 16 points and nine rebounds, James Carroll notched 16 points to go with six boards and four assists, while Evan Carroll added 12 points and five assists for MHS.
Mendota will next face Coal City at 2 p.m. today.
Burlington Central 58, Princeton 32
The Tigers led 12-7 after the first quarter and 23-22 at half, but could not hold on after intermission as they managed just nine second-half points in the consolation bracket loss.
Cole Evenson led PHS with eight points and tied for the team lead with six rebounds.
Notes: The 10th-seeded Pirates aren’t the only high seed making noise in the tournament. No. 13 Aurora Christian advanced to the semis win a 56-29 win over No. 5 Hinckley-Big Rock, and No. 11 Kaneland won its third-straight game with a 47-29 victory over No. 14 Newark.
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.