PLANO - Ottawa boys basketball coach Mark Cooper felt if his club could limit its mistakes, it would be in good shape against Burlington Central in their quarterfinal contest Tuesday at the 58th Annual Plano Christmas Classic.
The No. 8-seeded Pirates did a pretty good job in that department in the opening half, but the No. 3-seeded Rockets forced eight miscues — converting almost every one into points — in the pivotal third quarter to turn a 10-point halftime lead into a 24-point bulge heading to the fourth quarter and an eventual 64-33 quarterfinal victory at Reaper Gymnasium.
“We were concerned coming in of their ability to turn us over,” Cooper said. “I felt if we could set our defense in the half-court that we’d be OK, and I thought we held in there pretty good in the first half in terms of taking care of the basketball.
“But then early in the second half we had a couple turnovers that led to runouts for them, and things started to get difficult for us.”
Ottawa (7-4) now plays Lisle, which lost to No. 2 seed Yorkville Christian 92-44, at 3:30 p.m. in the fifth-place semifinals. Burlington Central (10-2) will take on the Mustangs at 7 p.m. in the semifinals.
“I thought for us a big key was at the end of the first half, we were able to eat the ball for 30 seconds or so on a few possessions — which isn’t normally what we do — and then execute and convert for a nice momentum swing,” Burlington Central coach Brett Porto said. “Then we came out in the second half and got a couple quick buckets, then got a couple more hoops off turnovers to widen the lead from 10 to 20.
“We were able to get the game a little more up-tempo like we like it early in the third quarter.”
Ottawa trailed 15-7 after the opening eight minutes, but drew to within 18-14 after a pair of free throws by Trace Roether, a 3-pointer from the top of the key by Luke Cushing and a driving layup by Braiden Miller at the 5-minute, 49-second mark.
Burlington Central then used a quick 6-0 burst — with a pair hoops from Carson Seyller and another from Jake Johnson — to grab its first double-digit lead. The Pirates used drives by Levi Sheehan and Anthony Miller to cancel out four points from the Rockets’ Zac Schmidt to head to the intermission down 28-18.
“We play some teams, like Huntley, but with a little bit faster pace, that are similar to Ottawa,” said Porto, his team hitting 56% from the floor in the win. “You have to adapt to opponents’ different styles, and there are going to be teams that you are going to have to be able to guard for 30 or 40 seconds at a time. I thought we did a very good job defensively today, and it was important to extend our lead because an 10-point lead against a team like Ottawa, which likes to grind things out, can feel more like it’s only a one-possession game.”
The Rockets opened the second half with back-to-back hoops by Gavin Sarvis and Schmidt, and then after a rebound hoop from Miller used a long 3-pointer from the left wing by 6-foot-9 Andrew Scharnowski. Schmidt then stole the ensuing inbounds pas and turned it into an old-fashioned three-point play to push the lead to 38-20 midway into the third quarter.
Schmidt and Seyller (five rebounds) led the Rockets with 13 points each, while Nick Carpenter, Matthew Lemon and Scharnowski (eight rebounds) all netted seven point apiece.
Ottawa was paced by nine points and eight rebounds from Miller, with Cushing and Sheehan adding five point apiece.
“Burlington Central is a very, very good team,” said Cooper, his club finishing with 24 turnovers and 38% shooting. “They have a legitimate chance to be playing in the (Class 3A) supersectional in our gym come postseason time ... they are that good. Despite the score and outcome, we still did a lot of good things today. We saw improvements out of some individual players, and we just have to take the positives from today and move on to (Wednesday).”