OTTAWA – The Ottawa boys basketball team was clinging to a one-point lead heading to the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s Interstate Eight Conference contest against Kaneland and needed someone to make a big shot.
Enter senior guard Aaron Threadgill.
Threadgill’s 3-pointer – his fourth of the game – from the right wing with 3:20 remaining pushed the Pirates to a six-point advantage before three free throws by Luke Cushing and two more by Anthony Miller in the final minute helped close out a 48-40 victory over the Knights at Kingman Gymnasium.
Threadgill and Cushing shared game-high honors with 16 points each for Ottawa, the latter also grabbing a game-best 12 rebounds and handing out three assists. Anthony Miller posted eight points and three rebounds.
“That was a big 3 by Aaron,” said Ottawa coach Mark Cooper, whose team is 4-2 overall and 2-0 in the I-8. “I didn’t think we gave Kaneland very many clean looks in the fourth quarter, but we have to do a better job of closing out a game. We were playing way too fast and made some poor decisions in the final two minutes when we were trying to put the game away.
“That’s on me. I have to make sure we are spending more time on that in practice and have us better prepared in those situations as we move on.”
Kaneland was paced by nine points and four rebounds from Jacob Harrison, eight points from Nick Mitchinson and six points each from Troyer Carlson, Johnny Spallasso and Gevon Grant.
“We’ll watch the film, but we didn’t have very good shot selection tonight,” said Kaneland coach Ernie Columbe, whose team fell to 2-3 and 0-2. “Like I just told the team in the locker room, Ottawa had some really long possessions, especially in the fourth quarter, and their kids were patient and made us work on defense. Then we would come down and take a forced shot very quickly.”
Ottawa ran out to a 10-0 lead in the opening five minutes as Cushing, Threadgill and Anthony Miller all sank triples ahead of a free throw by Braiden Miller. The Pirates held a 14-4 advantage after one, but the Knights began the second quarter on a 16-5 burst, and with a 3-pointer from Carlson took a 20-19 lead three minutes before halftime.
“We started out flat, got down 10-0 right off the bat, but we battled back,” Columbe said after his team hit only 1 of 12 shots from the field in the first, but 7 of 13 including 4 of 5 from the arc in the second. “I thought our second group played with a lot of energy in the second quarter to help us get back in the game.”
The hosts used consecutive layups from Anthony Miller and Cushing to head to the intermission up 23-22.
“We made some shots early to give ourselves some cushion, which we needed,” Cooper said. “We knew they would make a push, and they did in the second quarter. They were able to knock down some shots in the second, including a couple of 3s. I don’t think things changed a whole lot schematically for either team, but they hit the shots they didn’t in the first.
“They turned up the heat a little.”
Kaneland used a 7-0 run – including four points from Harrison and a trey from Carlson – midway in the third to hold a 32-29 lead, but a 3 from Trace Roether, five points from Cushing and a drive from Braiden Miller put the hosts up 39-38 heading to the final eight minutes.
“This a young team, and they are still trying to figure things out, but we have to have better focus in situations like the fourth quarter tonight,” said Columbe, his team going 1 for 7 from the floor and committing half of its 14 turnovers in the fourth quarter. “We just weren’t as patient as we needed to be for much of the game.
“I’m happy with the way we battled, and we’ll be able to fix those things we saw tonight moving forward.”
Next up, Ottawa hosts Streator at 7:30 p.m Saturday, while Kaneland travels to take on Sandwich at 7 p.m. Friday.