OTTAWA — Defense may not have won the Ottawa boys basketball team the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference West Division title Friday against Sterling.
It just put the Pirates in position to win the NIB 12 West on Friday at La Salle-Peru.
Backed by a dominating defense, Ottawa rolled past Sterling 41-27 Friday at Kingman Gym.
The win improves the Pirates (19-4) to 7-1 in the NIB 12 West and keeps Ottawa a game behind L-P, which improved to 8-0 in the NIB 12 West after Friday’s win at Dixon.
A Pirate victory at L-P would create a tie atop the NIB 12 West with a game left for both teams.
“We’ve been climbing uphill since late November when we dropped our first conference game,” said Ottawa coach Mark Cooper, whose team lost to L-P 64-50 on Nov. 30. “Our guys have done a lot of good since to win seven straight conference games and four on the road. The only thing we’ve done now is we’ve earned the right to play in a game of significance in regards to the conference championship.”
Ottawa’s defense on Friday made sure the Pirates would get its chance against L-P.
After the Pirates saw their 14-game winning streak snapped Tuesday against Pontiac, Ottawa limited Sterling to just four points in the first quarter, six points in the second quarter and seven points in the third quarter.
“We played hard the entire night, and I thought defensively we were very active,” Cooper said. “It carried us through some offensive lulls that we had at different times.”
The Golden Warriors shot just 8-for-43 (18.6 percent) from the floor and had just one player score more than three points.
“It was just one of those nights, and there seemed to be a lid on the basket,” Sterling coach Jim Preston said. “I thought in the first half we got some good looks, but they just didn’t go down.”
After a pre-game talk with the 1977-78 Ottawa boys basketball team — which will be inducted into the OTHS Hall of Fame today — the Pirates wasted little time gaining control as Ottawa sprinted to a 13-2 lead and went from there.
The Pirates took a 16-4 cushion after the first quarter, and their lead never dipped below 10 despite a four-point second quarter.
“We guarded really hard, and nothing came easy for Sterling,” Cooper said. “(After the first quarter), we were able to have a working margin the rest of the game.”
Ottawa junior John Carroll finished with a game-high 17 points and six rebounds, while senior point guard Nick Harsted added nine points, five rebounds and four assists.
Sterling’s Alex Soriano scored eight points.
Notes: Friday’s game featured 14 total blocked shots, including six by Ottawa. Jacob Draper had four blocks for the Pirates. … Ottawa senior J.D. Bryant did not play in Friday’s win due to a suspension. Bryant received a technical foul in Tuesday’s loss to Pontiac and, per team rules, was forced to sit out. … Seven individuals and one team who will be inducted into the OTHS Hall of Fame today were honored before Friday’s varsity game. … The Ottawa sophomore team rolled to a 44-31 victory. Schuyler Parks had a team-high 12 points for OTHS, while Isaac Gassman added nine points.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.