OTTAWA – As the minutes ticked away and the home score remained stuck on zero, the disbelief in the Kingman Gym stands grew.
So did the frustration of the host Pirates and confidence of the Dixon Dukes.
Ottawa was held scoreless for the entirety of both the first and second quarters Tuesday night in the second round of its own Dean Riley “Shootin’ the Rock” Tournament, playing for 17 minutes, 28 seconds of game clock before managing its first points of the night in what eventually played out to be a 42-26 Dixon win in the matchup of old North Central Illinois Conference (NCIC) rivals.
“We’ve talked about having better energy, and last night [in an 82-50 loss to Oak Forest] we just didn’t have it,” Dixon coach Chris Harmann said. “I thought tonight we were much better flying around to the basketball, anticipating, and I was extremely happy with how we played in that first half.”
Ottawa in the first half was 0-for-15 from the field, 0-for-2 from the free-throw line, and committed 19 turnovers. On the other end, Dixon’s offense was efficient if not spectacular, shooting 45.8% (11-for-24) from the field and committing just five turnovers in the first half, but combined with the job the Dukes were doing on the defensive end, the two dozen Dixon points by the break felt like a deluge.
Halftime score: Dixon 24, Ottawa 0.
“We just looked uncomfortable, sped up, turned the ball over too much, missed some shots. It just all kind of snowballed, and the stress of the situation mounted,” Ottawa coach Mark Cooper said.
“It was not a good half for us.”
Javarius Whitfield finally scored Ottawa’s first points 1 minute, 28 seconds into the third quarter with a pair of free-throw swishes to loud applause in what up until that point had been at first an eerily quiet and then and increasingly confused Kingman Gym.
Whitfield finished with four points and six rebounds, with the Pirates also led by Anthony Miller’s 11-point, three-steal effort and nine points from Luke Cushing. Ottawa clawed back as close as 14 points in the fourth quarter at 38-24, but never drew any closer.
“[Dixon] spent two-and-a-half quarters having long possessions,” Cooper said, “so that was going to make it difficult for us. ... You know, we played hard. We just didn’t attack their zone or their press very well in the first half.
“I thought we got more comfortable with it as the game went on, but obviously you’re just not going to come back from that type of first half.”
Jacob Gaither tallied 17 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocked shots for the Dukes (1-1). Riley Abell also scored in double digits with a 10-point, three-assist night. Like Gathier, Lucas Healy also recorded three steals as Dixon extended its zone defense out on the perimeter and as a result forced 25 Pirates turnovers and held its hosts to 25.0% (9-for-36) shooting while recording 41.9% shooting (18-for-43) itself with only 13 giveaways.
“This is a great tournament with really quality teams here ...” Harmann said. “[Ottawa] has really good shooters, and they shoot lights-out. We had to get out to them and work harder on defense, and I’m glad our guys stepped up to that challenge tonight.”
Dixon returns to Kingman Gym on Friday for a 2:30 p.m. meeting with Illinois Valley Central.
The Pirates will be back in action at 7 p.m. Friday against Oak Forest (2-0).