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OTTAWA — Ottawa boys basketball coach Mark Cooper will take his team’s win over Geneseo on Friday.
He just doesn’t have to be completely happy with it.
In a Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference West Division game, the Pirates scored the first nine points and never trailed but failed to put the game away as they earned a sluggish 61-50 victory over the Maple Leafs.
“I thought tonight we were good defensively, but I didn’t think we challenged enough things defensively,” Cooper said. “We wanted to make them play offense with a little more discomfort. We were good enough to get the win, but we’re capable of being better defensively than we were tonight.”
After the Pirates scored the first nine points, the Maple Leafs (9-12, 1-5) never seriously threatened Ottawa (18-1), which led by no less than five points throughout the second half and by double digits for most of the fourth quarter. Despite hanging around, Geneseo was unable to muster any run.
“I thought both teams both teams looked a little tired at times tonight, and not so much physically but emotionally,” Cooper said. “Obviously, we’re happy to get the win, but we’re ready to take a weekend off, which I think we need.”
After Ottawa scored the game’s first nine points, Geneseo rallied to 12-9 after the first quarter.
The Pirates pushed the lead back out to 19-9, but the Maple Leafs again surged to cut the deficit to four late in the quarter and to 26-20 at half.
Ottawa’s lead yo-yoed back and forth between five and 10 points for the first 10 minutes of the second half before the Pirates slowly began to increase their advantage to as much as 17 in the final minutes.
“I thought we had some turnovers at key times and we missed some shots that gave them opportunities,” Geneseo coach Brad Storm said. “I guess it just came down to some key rebounds by them, some key turnovers by us and all of a sudden a couple-possession (deficit) was extended out and we’re trying to play catch up.”
Ottawa senior John Carroll finished with team highs of 22 points and seven rebounds to go with two assists and a blocked shot, while Cody Stokes added 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Geneseo was paced by 24 points and 12 rebounds from junior post Drew Himmelman.
With the win, the Pirates improved to 7-0 in the NIB 12 West and maintained their one-game lead over Dixon, which has only lost in conference to Ottawa.
“We positioned ourselves to play meaningful games as far as the conference race over these last three weeks,” Cooper said. “The next two are on the road, so our level of play is going to have to be picked up if we want to go on the road and get wins.”
Notes: Tied after three quarters, Ottawa rallied to pull out a 44-36 victory in the sophomore game. Ryan Leonard had a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Corsairs, while Kray Wheeler added 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists. … Prior to the game, Ottawa honored its Class of 2014 inductees into the Ottawa Township High School Hall of Fame. The inductees will be honored at a ceremony tonight. … Ottawa’s game Tuesday at Mendota has been canceled so the Trojans can play a Big Northern Conference West Division makeup game
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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