Girls basketball: Marlie Orlandi makes key baskets as Ottawa holds off L-P

Ottawa's Grace Carroll sprints down the floor on a break away as L-P's Brooklyn Ficek chases after her on Friday, Jan. 27, 2023 at L-P High School.

Ottawa sophomore Marlie Orlandi likes having the ball in her hands in big moments.

She showed why Friday.

After La Salle-Peru trimmed the Pirates’ lead to three points early in the fourth quarter, just before Ottawa senior Grace Carroll went out with four fouls, Orlandi delivered two key buckets.

Orlandi buried a 3-pointer, her fourth of the game, and scored on a give-and-go with Ella Schmitz on Ottawa’s next possession.

Schmitz then gave the Pirates a double-digit lead with a 3 from the corner with 3:14 left, and Ottawa went on to win 43-34 to stay in the hunt for the Interstate 8 Conference title.

“I realized I needed to take over because if it wasn’t going to be me I didn’t know if anybody else was going to take over,” Orlandi said. “So I took over and realized we needed the big baskets. I took them, I executed them and it got us a bigger lead.”

With the win, the Pirates swept the regular-season series with the Cavaliers and improved to 21-6 overall and 11-2 in the conference, staying one game behind first-place Sycamore.

Ottawa has one more I-8 game left Feb. 7 at Sandwich, while Sycamore (16-11, 10-1) has three conference games left, including Tuesday at L-P.

“It means a lot for us to beat [L-P] twice because they are our rival,” Orlandi said. “It also gives us second place in the conference, which gives us energy going into our next conference game knowing we have to stay up there hoping some team can knock off Sycamore at least once so we have a chance at a conference championship.”

Coming off a 52-33 win over Kaneland on Thursday, the Pirates got off to a slow start Friday.

Ottawa jumped to a 6-1 lead but didn’t score during the final 3:31 of the first quarter and trailed 10-6 going to the second.

The Pirates tied it at 14 with a 7-2 run midway through the second quarter before Morgan Stone gave Ottawa a 17-16 lead with a 3-pointer with 2:43 left in the opening half and the Pirates led the rest of the way.

“I just thought we were a little lackadaisical at the beginning,” Ottawa coach Brent Moore said. “I thought we needed to work on getting downhill and toward the basket a little bit more. We played a lot of East and West basketball in the first quarter. I felt like driving lanes were there. If we get to the basket more, then the outside shots open up a little bit more after that, and all of a sudden you have people start seeing them go in and that’s usually a good thing.”

Ottawa led 20-16 at halftime and pushed it to 32-24 with 1:07 left in the third before the Cavs made their run.

“We did what we had to do,” Orlandi said. “We kept fighting and got our big shots. We knew defense was going to win us the game. We needed to rebound better. Once we did that, we realized we’d seal the win.”

After Schmitz’s 3-pointer made it 41-31 with 3:14 left, the Cavs managed only one free throw until Bailey Pode scored a basket with 1.1 seconds left.

Orlandi scored a game-high 18 points, while Carroll finished with nine points, Hailey Larsen scored seven, and Morgan Stone added six.

Pode led L-P (14-10, 9-3) with nine points, while Brooklyn Ficek and Olivia Shetterly had eight points each.

“We made one 3 so the outside shots were not there,” L-P coach Adam Spencer said. “We had a couple slips in focus. We know Carroll and Orlandi are going to shoot. So if you’re a little too far off on defense on help or if you get stuck in one of those down screens, they make you pay.

“We got beat (50-28 Dec. 7) the first time. We got beat by nine tonight. We might see them again in the regional. I was pretty happy with the effort. We just have to finish plays and make a couple shots.”