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Ottawa senior John Carroll (No. 25) reacts during the final minute of the No. 1-seeded Pirates’ 72-62 loss to No. 5 United Township in a Class 4A Rock Island Regional semifinal Tuesday in Rock Island. Carroll scored a game-high 24 points, but it wasn’t enough as the Pirates had their 21-game winning streak and season ended. NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
ROCK ISLAND — The Ottawa boys basketball team’s magical season was sunk Tuesday.
Having not lost since Nov. 30 and riding a 21-game winning streak, the Pirates’ season came to a sudden end in Tuesday’s Class 4A Rock Island Regional as No. 1-seeded Ottawa was upset by No. 5-seeded United Township 72-62.
“It obviously wasn’t the way we wanted our season to end, but our kids did a lot of good things this year,” Ottawa coach Mark Cooper said. “You have to compliment UT for the performance they had tonight.”
Playing in only their second 4A regional in school history, the Pirates allowed the game’s first seven points, led for only 34 seconds and never pulled closer than six points in the second half against the Panthers (7-21), who prior to Monday’s regional quarterfinal win over Pekin had not won a postseason game since 2011.
“I thought we did a good job of taking advantage of what we had talked about and had scouted as the weak areas for Ottawa,” UT coach Marc Polite said. “I thought we did a good job of exploiting them, and I thought we did a good job of hiding some of our weaknesses.”
The Panthers took the game to the Pirates as UT scored seven points in a 51-second stretch to start the contest to take a 7-0 lead just 1:57 into the game.
However, Ottawa stayed composed as it slowly chipped away.
The Pirates trailed 14-9 after the first quarter and pulled to within a point on three occasions in the second quarter — including to 22-21 — before Ottawa finally took a 23-22 lead on a basket by senior Cody Stokes with 2:27 remaining in the half. Finally on top, the Pirates’ lead didn’t last long.
It took the Panthers just 34 seconds to take back the lead as a 3-point shot by sophomore Jacob Meeske gave UT the advantage and sparked a 9-0 Panther run to close the half for a 31-23 UT lead at intermission.
“The end of the first half was the difference in the game,” Cooper said. “We went from up one to down (eight) in a short period of time. We turned the ball over a few times (that led) to layups, and there were some loose balls that we weren’t able to get. (The eight-point halftime lead) was the working margin they had the rest of the game.”
After he hit the go-ahead 3, Meeske wasn’t finished as the sophomore scored seven of UT’s nine points during the rally.
“When they took the lead, I think the game got more into our realm,” Polite said. “The game got more up-and-down, and we’re used to playing that style of basketball, so I think we were able to shake free and get some easy baskets, which was what allowed us to be able to get that lead.”
The Panthers pushed the advantage to as many as 16 points late in the third quarter and to 14 points with 2:42 to play.
However, the Pirates cut the deficit to 66-60 and 68-62 in the final minute but could not pull any closer.
“When you get down by double figures, you need them to miss a few shots,” Cooper said. “Obviously, they shot the ball well enough to keep us at arms’ length in the second half.”
Senior John Carroll scored a game-high 24 points for Ottawa, while sophomore Isaac Gassman added 22 points.
UT had four players score in double figures and with the win will play for a regional title at 7 p.m. Friday against the winner of tonight’s semifinal between No. 2 Rock Island and No. 3 Moline.
The loss ended the Pirates’ magical season, which saw the 21-game winning streak match a school record.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed tonight,” Cooper said. “But this is a great group of kids, not only with how they played but how they represented Ottawa High School.”
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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