Girls basketball: Another strong defensive effort leads Ottawa past Rochelle in I-8 action

Pirates force Hubs into 31 turnovers, hold visitors to 18 shot attempts

OTTAWA – The Ottawa girls basketball team has put together some pretty impressive games on the defensive end of the floor this season, but maybe none better and more explosive than Tuesday night’s Interstate Eight Conference win against Rochelle.

The Pirates – led by outstanding defensive efforts from guards Grace Carroll and Gabi Krueger – posted 22 steals while forcing the Hubs into 31 turnovers and allowing only 18 field-goal attempts on the night in cruising to a dominating 55-17, running-clock win at Kingman Gym.

Ottawa, allowing just over 26 points a game, recorded its ninth game of the season holding an opponent to 20 points or less.

“It’s been nice to have our whole group together for more than a week at a time. I think because of that we have really started to jell on both ends of the floor.”

—  Ottawa girls basketball coach Brent Moore

“It’s been nice to have our whole group together for more than a week at a time,” Ottawa coach Brent Moore said, adding that Rochelle was missing its point guard as well as a post player. “I think because of that we have really started to jell on both ends of the floor.

“We have had to played multiple games without Gabi this season. But with Gabi around and engaged and her being so very good at on-ball defense, we put her on the other team’s best player or point guard, and she gives them fits. Our defense starts with her and the pressure she puts on the ball.

“Then that goes hand-in-hand with Grace, who is just as tough as a defender as Gabi but with the ability to run the floor and convert turnovers into points. Throw in Cheyenne (Joachim) anchoring the paint, and Brooke (Waddell) and Zoe (Harris) being able to stretch the defense with their shots, good things can happen when we are playing to our capabilities like we were tonight.”

Carroll stuffed the stat sheet with a game-high 14 points, four rebounds, four assists and seven steals to led Ottawa (19-4, 8-2). Harris finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, and Waddell had eight points and three steals. Marlie Orlandi (two rebounds, two assists, two steals) and Kendall Lowery (three steals) each netted seven points, with Krueger swiping four steals.

Rochelle (10-15, 3-7) received six points and six rebounds from Lucy Bunger and four points from Torrin Wante.

“As far as an overall performance, this was probably the best we’ve seen Grace play in a little while,” Moore said. “She was really good, especially in the third quarter.”

Rochelle held a 3-2 lead just over a minute into the game, but Ottawa used a 10-3 burst to end the opening quarter up 12-6.

A Harris 3 from the left wing and a free throw began the second. Orlandi converted a drive to the hoop and Harris followed two minutes later to push the lead to 20-6. Rochelle responded with three points from Josie Lundquist and a long jumper from Sydney Tabor to close the gap to 20-11, but a 3-pointer and steal-turned-layup by Orlandi extended the lead to 25-11 at the intermission.

Carroll started the second half with a steal and score before Harris scored on a nice drive in traffic. Then, after Bunger swished her second 3 of the game, the Pirates exploded for a 18-0 run, with Carroll pouring in 12.

“We talked at halftime about consistency,” Moore said. “We had stretches of being really good in the first half, then we had a few that were lackadaisical, like going under a ball screen instead of over or not getting on the midline defensively. We said we are the better team here tonight, let’s really be consistent in the second half, get better and worry about us.

“I feel like we really did that in the third quarter.”

Ottawa plays Kaneland – a team it defeated, 32-26, three weeks ago at Kingman – on Friday as part of a girls-boys I-8 doubleheader.