OTTAWA – Not even a little magic contributed by one of the greatest boys basketball teams in Ottawa’s long and storied history could help the current Pirates overcome a Princeton club that appears to be well on its way to being the greatest team in that school’s annals.
A pep talk from the 1982-83 Sweet Sixteen Pirates that were honored prior to the varsity contest seemed to inspire the present club to one of its best stretches of basketball this season, one in which it held leads on the Associated Press Class 2A No. 1-ranked Tigers at the quarter and the half.
But ultimately, Princeton’s athleticism – particularly that of senior Teegan Davis – proved too much, the visitors to Kingman Gym outscoring the Pirates 34-12 in the latter two periods to come away with a 58-38 victory.
Davis led all players with 24 points (including three 3-pointers) and seven rebounds, plus outstanding defense in the latter half at the head of the game-changing half-court trap that kept the Tigers undefeated in 22 games.
They can tie and set the school record for wins to start a season at home in Prouty Gym next week, against Kewanee on Tuesday and against Hall on Friday, if successful.
But Princeton needed every bit of Davis’ heroics, improved rebounding and defense after the break to net that 22nd win.
“I think the first half had more to do with how well Ottawa played,” Princeton coach Jason Smith said. “They’re a well-coached team, Coach [Mark] Cooper does a great job with them and they play really hard, so we knew this would be a tough test, coming into a tough place like this to play. We expected their best shot from them in the first half, and we got it. They dictated the tempo … But we just switched our defense around, our 13 [half-court trap] was really good tonight, our length making it tough, and it dictated our tempo in the second half, got us out and going.
“Sometimes TD gets that look in his eye like he’s not gonna lose, and he had that look tonight. He created the defensive tempo we needed in the second half.”
Five points each from Levi Sheehan (10 points) and Payton Knoll offset six each from Davis and Grady Thompson in the first period, with a pair of Matt Haerle free throws with 0.9 seconds left giving Ottawa a 14-12 edge.
PHS took a 24-23 lead on a bucket by Korte Lawson with 26.3 left in the second, but Sheehan – the hero from Friday’s win over Sycamore – canned a 3-pointer with 16.3 seconds left to put Ottawa on top 26-24.
But then the roof caught fire for the Pirates. Princeton made just 1 of its first 8 shots from the field in the quarter, but still managed to start it with a 10-2 run, thanks to several offensive rebounds. The Tigers outboarded the hosts 14-3 in the period, which helped them sink 6 of the last 7 shots and climb to a 41-33 lead heading to the fourth.
Davis hit a pair of 3s from the left wing and sank a baseline move as the Tigers scored the first 10 points of the fourth to all but seal it.
Ottawa, which saw Cooper Knoll match Sheehan’s 10 points, finished shooting 4 for 18 (22.2%) from the field in the last two quarters in falling to 11-10 this season.
“We had the tempo of the game where we wanted it in the first half and did a lot of good things,” Cooper said, “but eventually their athleticism and trapping in the late third/early fourth took a toll on us. With their length and athleticism, when they start trapping, nothing is easy, and it puts mental stress on every pass that you make, more that than being physically being worn down.
“Their offensive rebound in the second half hurt us, so did [Davis] hitting those 3s from the left wing, because he’s athletic enough to go around you, so it stretches our defense there and adds to the strain on us.
“There’s a reason that they’re No. 1 in the state and undefeated. They can do things like that.”