Girls basketball: Ottawa holds brief 2nd-quarter lead, but can’t keep up with Kays

Pirates season ends with 48-18 regional defeat

Ottawa girls basketball head coach Brent Moore (center) talks things over with his team during a timeout Monday, Feb. 12, 2024, at the Class 3A Morris Regional in Morris.

MORRIS – Through a quarter and the first half minute of the second, the Ottawa Pirates, as they have throughout the season, battled through some tough situations and held their own against Kankakee in Monday’s Class 3A Morris Regional semifinal.

The higher-seeded Kays, however, proved to be too much, pulling away for a 48-18 victory to end Ottawa’s season and advance to the regional championship at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Kankakee (21-9) will play Morris (23-9), a 56-35 upset winner over Bloomington in Monday’s other semifinal.

Ottawa (17-13) sees its injury-hampered but nonetheless winning season end.

“Kankakee is athletic top to bottom, they’re well coached, and they’re probably going to do some damage here in this postseason,” Pirates coach Brent Moore said. “We were just the unfortunate ones to run into them in the semis.”

Defense was the story of the first quarter, at least after Kankakee came out of the gate with the game’s first six points thanks to a quick, up-and-down attack fueled by its matchup zone defense. The Pirates didn’t score until Skylar Dorsey drained a 3-pointer 4:16 after the opening tip, but thanks to the Pirates’ defensive efforts they only found themselves behind 6-5 at the end of the first quarter.

Ottawa took its only lead of the game 19 seconds into the second quarter when Ashlyn Ganiere came off the bench to record a steal, drive and layup that put her team ahead 7-6.

That lead lasted exactly 14 seconds, with the Kays’ Nikkel Johnson answering immediately. That began what essentially was a Kankakee clinic the remainder of the night, one that included 11-point and 19-point runs with Ottawa failing to score the entirety of the third quarter.

“Our pressure creates some opportunities for us,” Kankakee coach Kurt Weigt said. “We kind of rely on that, and after the first quarter I just said, ‘You know, we just need to settle into the game, get comfortable,’ and then we saw a couple balls go in the basket, and all of a sudden we feel a little bit better about it and how it was going.

“We hang our hat on our defensive effort.”

Johnson with a 15-point, 11-rebound double-double and TaLeah Turner with 11 points and five assists led Kankakee, which outscored the Pirates 42-11 after the Pirates’ brief second-quarter lead.

For Ottawa, Skylar Dorsey made two 3s to lead the scoring with six points. Mary Stisser added four points and a team-high five rebounds. Kendall Lowery finished with a team-best two assists and was one of only three seniors – the others being Hannah Waddell and Haley Waddell – on the Pirates’ roster.

“We had a lot of adversity thrown at us this year, but Mr. Moore has always preached, ‘You just have to get through it. It’s part of life, and basketball at the end of the day is not the end of the world,’ Lowery said.

“You just have to get through it, give your all on the court. This isn’t the season we wanted with injuries, but I think as a team we did everything we could. We put our all out there. I couldn’t have asked for a better team.”

“Our girls have had a fantastic year,” Moore said. “We faced a lot of adversity, injuries back and forth, but we stuck together. The sun always comes up the next morning, and we got our butts back to work and went out to compete the next day, whether it be a practice or a game.

“We had a fun season, and as far as our seniors go, their effort and their attitudes and everything they give to this program, it’s going to be missed.”