PLANO — It was a tale of two halves Friday night in the quarterfinals of the Plano Christmas Classic.
The first saw No. 1-seeded Ottawa shoot a chilly 29 percent from the field, allowing No. 8-seeded Seneca to hang around, and a late 10-0 surge from the Irish made it a four-pint game at halftime.
The second half saw the Pirates warm up shooting-wise as they started to slowly pull away, outscoring Seneca by four points in the third and 10 in the fourth en route to a 61-43 quarterfinal win.
“We had control of the game with a couple minutes left in the first half, but we were too passive offensively and they tightened the screws on us a little bit and all of a sudden, a 14-point game went down to four in a couple minutes,” Ottawa coach Mark Cooper said. “That’s a credit to them. They made a lot of plays in the last two minutes of the first half that changed the complexion of the game at that point.”
Up 22-8 with a little more than three minutes left in the half following a corner 3-pointer from sophomore Keaton Rombach, the Pirates didn’t score again until the 6:37 mark in the third quarter when senior John Carroll converted on a three-point play.
Over that span, Seneca had pulled within two.
“We played more as individual parts the first half in terms of the ball wasn’t moving, we didn’t get the type of touches we wanted in the paint, and consequently, we settled for a lot of early possession 3s,” Cooper said. “As things went in the second half a little bit, we got a couple transition buckets and we just ran a better offense and we got cleaner looks.”
After scoring just two points in the first half, Carroll — the reigning tournament MVP — started to warm up in the third, scoring 10 in the quarter and finishing with 19 points.
“We were playing more one-on-one than actually playing as a full team, and in the second half we came out and did better,” Carroll said. “We just swung the ball a little bit more and had more cuts through the middle of the paint.”
Still, Seneca hung around.
A pair of free throws from Conlan Callahan pulled Seneca within four at 34-30 with a little more than a minute left in the third quarter, but the Pirates uncorked a 23-6 run spanning the next seven minutes to put the game away.
“We have some guys that have some physical characteristics of good defenders in terms of we’re interchangeable, we’ve got a little bit of length so if we can guard the basketball and keep people in front of us we can do a pretty good job of contesting shots,” Cooper said.
The win puts Ottawa into today’s semifinal against No. 12 seeded Aurora Christian, which defeated Newark 62-53 in Friday’s first quarterfinal.
Aside from Carroll, senior Cody Stokes and sophomore Isaac Gassman chipped in 11 points apiece for the Pirates, while Stokes added a team-high seven rebounds. Alex Bott led the Irish with 12 points.
“They did a really nice job of closing out the first half and you’ve got to give a lot of credit to Seneca tonight,” Cooper said. “That game could’ve gotten away from them but they gave us four quarters of good basketball.”
Mendota 85, Forreston 63
Mendota junior James Carroll broke the Plano Christmas Classic single-game scoring record with a 42-point performance as the Trojans rolled to the win over Forreston in the ninth-place bracket.
Carroll broke the record without making a single 3, shooting 63 percent from the field (17-of-27) and making 8-of-12 free throws.
The previous record of 40 was held by David Shumway of Sandwich and current Western Michigan football coach P.J. Fleck from Kaneland.
Unfortunately for Carroll, just a few hours later, Eric Phillips of Hinckley-Big Rock scored 44 points in H-BR’s 78-70 win over Sandwich in a consolation game, breaking Carroll’s short-lived record.
Up just 22-18 after the first quarter, the Trojans used a 25-14 second quarter to pull away.
Ryan Reeder added 12 points for the Trojans, while Sam Bowne chipped in with 10. Carroll also finished with a game-high 11 rebounds for MHS.
With the win, Mendota (10-4) advances to face Kaneland at 2 p.m. today. The winner of that game will face the Dixon-Rockford Christian winner on Monday for ninth place.
“We played better all-around,” Mendota coach Jan Thompson said. “We need another good day tomorrow. Kaneland is well coached.”
St. Bede 71, Princeton 39
Jarret Olson poured in a game-high 28 points Friday to lead the Bruins to a rout of the Tigers in the 21st-place bracket.
Sam Halm had 15 points and eight rebounds, while Andrew Pyszka added 10 points and eight boards for St. Bede, which plays Lisle at noon Monday in the 21st-place game.
Garrett Duffin scored 15 points to lead the Tigers, who plays Wilmington in the 23rd-place game at 10:30 a.m. Monday.
Evan Wixom can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.