PLANO - It was definitely Cinderella’s time to shine at the 50th Annual Plano Holiday Tournament. No. 13 seed Aurora Christian took third place, No. 11 seed Kaneland took fourth place and in the biggest upset of the tournament — No. 10 seed Ottawa Pirates took the championship from top seed Belvidere 55-53.
It’s the first Christmas holiday tournament title for OTHS since the Pirates won the Lemont Tournament in 1993 and 1994 when head coach Mark Cooper was an assistant.
The Pirates’ title run was fueled by with defense throughout the tournament, including holding guards Maurice Jackson and Josh Hauser to a combined 16 points and kept them from making a home in the paint for their Bucs teammates.
“I thought we kept Jackson from penetrating in the lane all night,” Cooper said. “Chase Hill and Nick Harsted did a really nice job on those guys.”
Ottawa led by four to start the fourth quarter but Belvidere’s Joe Byers cut the lead to one with a 3-pointer. Pirate standout John Carroll came right back down the court and converted an old-fashioned three point play to regain the four point lead for Ottawa.
The chess match continued as Darious Brown got a stick back for the Bucs and Carroll responded with a beautiful feed into the post to Jacob Draper for a 49-45 Ottawa lead as the teams battled back and forth.
The defense was ever strong on both ends of the court in the final minute. After Hill’s drive in the lane and layup gave the Pirates a 53-49 lead, Jackson stole an Ottawa pass to cut the Pirates lead to two points.
Seconds later with the score tied at 53, Draper hit nothing but net on both attempts from the charity stripe to take a 55-53 advantage with :53 seconds left on the clock.
“Yeah that was pretty insane,” Draper said. “I’d been struggling with free throws lately, but we shoot at least 20 free throws every day in practice and it paid off tonight.”
The Pirates still had a pretty tough offense to stop during the last minute. Despite having one foul left to give, the Pirates defense clamped down as Jackson attempted to penetrate the lane, but Hill and Harsted forced Jackson to bobble the ball and the game ended with the Pirates claiming the championship.
“This is incredible to get this win,” said .JD. Bryant, who made the All-Tournament team. “I think we caught Belvidere off guard a bit and showed we weren’t just going to be happy with being in the championship game. This team just continues to get better and get closer as a team.”
To start the game Carroll showed his stellar tournament was in fact going to continue as he drained a 3-pointer for the early lead.
The Bucs responded with 6-7 Ian Carlson hitting a pair of jump shots and Jackson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Belvidere a 15-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Bryant started the second quarter off with a 3-pointer to tie the game at 15. Hill followed that with a 3-pointer of his own to give the Pirates an 18-15 lead.
Carroll then converted the layup and Bryant hit a floater in the lane to cap off a 10-0 Ottawa run and take a 22-15 lead.
Belvidere responded with a 9-2 run helped by a 3-pointer and a running jumper in the lane from Hauser that helped the Bucs and Pirates head into the break tied at 28.
Carroll got the second half started off in the right direction for the Pirates as he hit a 3-pointer to take a 31-28 lead.
Draper then picked up three more rebounds and a put back for a 42-36 advantage but Carlson hit two more jumpers as Ottawa led 44-40 heading into the final quarter.
Carroll led all scorers with 25 points and earned the tournament’s most valuable player award which was handed to him by Cooper, who won the award 26 years ago when Mendota won the first its three Plano titles.
“It’s nice to get that honor, but this is all about this team winning this tournament,” Carroll said. “Could not have done it without them, but it’s a pretty humble feeling having your coach hand that award to me, especially having won it himself.”
“It’s a really nice relationship with these guys like John,” Cooper said. “Maybe it’s not a father-son type relationship, but it’s the next best thing.”
Aside from Carroll’s 25, Hill had 12 points while Draper led with 10 rebounds for the Pirates.
Carlson had 14 and Byers 11 for the Bucs.
Mendota 59, Lisle 52
The Trojans completed a 3-1 tournament run with a victory over Lisle in the ninth-place game.
Brothers James and Evan Carroll paced MHS with 14 points apiece. Austin O’Sadnick added a team-best eight rebounds and added seven points for the Trojans, who led 23-20 at half and 36-34 at the break.
Streator 41, Princeton 38
The Tigers could not survive the damage done from a four-point third quarter despite limiting the Bulldogs to just three points in the fourth quarter of the 19th-place game.
Zach Stroud led PHS with 12 points while Austen Stewart added 10 points for the Tigers.
Brad Martin Sr. can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com