PLANO — The Plano High School gym keeper might be ordering some new nets after No. 10-seeded Ottawa roasted them Friday in a 60-50 victory over No. 11 Kaneland in a semifinal at the 50th Annual Plano Christmas Classic.
The Pirates (9-3) shot 8-for-11 from the 3-point line and 12-of-15 from the free throw line to display sniper-like marksmanship.
“We wanted send a message out to other teams in the tournament — we’re no joke,” Ottawa senior guard J.D. Bryant said. “We have the firepower we wanted and we showed it out there the last few games. We came up big and now we’re in the (championship).”
Bryant went 2-of-2 from beyond the 3-point arch to help him finish with a game-high 16 points. Junior forward John Carroll contributed 14 points as he also went 2-of-2 from 3-point range.
Junior Cody Stokes brought a spark off the bench offensively and defensively by dropping 15 points — including 3-of-4 from the 3-point line — and snatched a game-high two steals.
“Being involved was pretty good,” Stokes said. “(Kaneland senior forward Matt Limbrunner) could step up and hit the 3-ball pretty well, so we needed someone who could guard that a little better. Our team did a pretty good job.”
Limbrunner hit two of his six 3-point attempts and finished with 12 points. Junior forward John Pruett led the Knights with 13 points and had a game-high nine rebounds.
After the Pirates jumped out to a 5-0 lead off junior Chase Hill’s layup and senior Nick Harsted’s lone 3-pointer of the game, the two squads found themselves tied at 12-12 with two minutes left in the first quarter.
Stokes hit his first 3 of the game as the buzzer sounded to give the Pirates a 15-12 lead.
Kaneland scored the first six points of the second quarter to take an 18-15 lead, but after Bryant hit a floater in the middle of the lane and Carroll hit his first 3, the Pirates never relinquished the lead.
“It was just a great team effort tonight,” Carroll said. “We were all just looking for each other — feeding off each other. It was a good game for us. We all have trust in each other that we can hit a shot. We can all shoot.”
Ottawa led 30-18 at half, but the 12-point lead soon dwindled down to 32-30 as Kaneland scored the first six points in the third quarter and 12 of the first 14.
However, the Pirates were prepared for the onslaught.
“Kaneland, that’s a proud program. They’ve won a lot of basketball games in recent years and they’ve been playing well in the last few weeks,” Pirate coach Mark Cooper said. “We knew they were going to make a push in the third quarter and they scrambled the game on us a little bit.”
Stokes then hit the second of his three long balls and Harsted knocked down a mid-range jumper to advance the Ottawa lead to seven.
The Knights forced Ottawa into some turnovers and contested shots, but Ottawa maintained the lead and pushed it to 10 by the last buzzer for the 60-50 victory.
“Our defense was a real big struggle coming into this year for us so coach Cooper (wanted us) to take a lot of pride in our defense this year,” Bryant said. “We were really slacking last year, but we knew when it came down to it we could stop them.”
Ottawa advances to the championship at 8:30 tonight to face No. 1 seed Belvidere, the defending champion.
Cooper said his team will have to rebound better than it did against the Knights (minus 15) if it wants a chance of taking the title.
“Belvidere’s the returning champ. They’re the one seed and the heavy favorite of this tournament,” Cooper said. “We get our shot (tonight). When you’re the one seed, you have to take on all challengers. We understand we’re going to have to be really good because that’s a very, very good (Class) 3A basketball team that’s very physical.”
Mendota 70, Coal City 46
Evan Carroll and Austin O’Sadnick each scored 15 points Friday as the Trojans earned a spot in the ninth-place game.
Carroll also grabbed a game-high seven rebounds and dished out three assists, while O’Sadnick also contributed six rebounds and a pair of blocks.
The Trojans took a 22-10 lead after the first quarter and extended their advantage to 38-20 by halftime.
Jon Gehm had 13 points and Trae Blumhorst added 10 points, five rebounds and four assists for Mendota (11-3), which plays Lisle at 1 p.m. today.
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.