FAIRBURY — The Ottawa girls basketball team had three goals entering this season.
With a 47-42 victory over Prairie Central in the Class 3A Prairie Central Regional championship Thursday, the Lady Pirates checked off their third goal.
“This is just an amazing feeling,” Ottawa senior Lindsey Greene said. “This team is so close. We had three goals for this season — we wanted to get 20 wins, the (Northern Illinois Big 12) Conference (West Division) and the regional — and we accomplished all three of them.
“This is a huge thing for Coop (Ottawa coach Mike Cooper). I know how much he wanted it, so we were really glad that we could get it for him.”
The regional title is the third consecutive for the Lady Pirates (23-5), who advance to face Morton in a Washington Sectional semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Morton (27-4), which beat Ottawa 52-25 last season in the Galesburg Sectional semifinals, beat Normal U-High 44-42 in the Bloomington Central Catholic Regional championship Thursday.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Cooper said about the three-peat. “These kids have worked so hard this year. Nobody realizes how many extra hours we put in the weight room in August and September. They kept saying in the huddle in the fourth quarter, ‘August and September guys, that’s when we earn this.’”
The host Hawks made Ottawa earn it in the fourth quarter.
The Lady Pirates outscored Prairie Central 10-4 in the third quarter to take a 37-26 lead into the final eight minutes, but the Hawks rallied.
Ottawa managed just two free throws in the first 4:18 of the fourth quarter, which allowed Prairie Central to go on a 12-2 run.
Gabby Weber drained a 3-pointer on PC’s first possession and freshman Kiana Coomber scored the Hawks’ next seven points.
Laura Crane capped the run with a bucket that cut Ottawa’s lead to one point at 39-38.
Then Greene stepped up for the Lady Pirates.
With 2:41 left, Greene launched a deep 3-pointer that halted PC’s momentum and gave Ottawa a 42-38 advantage.
“It was kind of like, ‘No, no no. Great shot Lindsey,’” Cooper said.
Greene’s bomb was Ottawa’s only field goal in the fourth quarter.
“It was just a great feeling,” Greene said. “I wasn’t thinking at all when I shot it. I’m just lucky it went in, I guess.”
The Lady Pirates managed to hang on despite making just three of their first 14 free throws in the fourth.
Cassidy Rice hit a pair of free throws with 15.3 seconds left for a 45-40 Ottawa lead, and Catie Carlson pushed the lead to 47-40 with two free throws with 8.1 seconds remaining.
“We made just enough plays when we needed,” Cooper said.
Despite the nail-biting finish, the Lady Pirates never trailed after being down 2-0.
“I thought defensively we played hard and we rebounded. They got some late in the fourth quarter, but for the most part for three quarters, we held our own on the boards,” said Cooper, whose team had a 29-25 rebounding advantage. “It was just a real gutsy effort by these guys.
“Sometimes people don’t give us a lot of credit, but you can’t put a price tag on hard work, and these guys absolutely work hard all the time and we guard people. When you guard people, you have an opportunity to win a championship.”
Ottawa broke PC’s press early — including a coast-to-coast layup by Carlson for a 6-4 lead — and went often to posts Jaleesa Kindred and Mady Toynton, who combined for 14 points as the Lady Pirates took an 18-12 lead after eight minutes.
The Hawks pulled within one at 22-21 in the second quarter, but the Lady Pirates closed the half on a 5-1 run for a 27-22 lead at intermission.
In the third quarter, Rice scored five points, Toyton drove for a basket and Jasmin Bailey drained her lone 3-pointer to send Ottawa to the fourth up 11 points.
“It feels awesome,” Carlson said. “We worked really hard for this and it’s paid off. The feeling, I can’t describe it.”
Carlson and Kindred led Ottawa with 10 points each. Rice finished with nine points, Toynton had eight points and Greene added seven.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.