OTTAWA — A couple of exhausted teams took the Kingman Gymnasium floor Saturday afternoon.
However, the combatants were archrivals Ottawa and La Salle-Peru, so as was to be expected, a 32-minute battle ensued.
In a contest that featured eight ties and nine lead changes — four of each during the final quarter of action — the Pirates defeated the Cavaliers 49-42 in the fifth-place game of the 15th annual Dean Riley “Shootin’ the Rock” Thanksgiving Tournament.
“I thought there were two tired basketball teams today at the end of the week (playing their fourth game) that were trying to fight through it for four quarters,” said coach Mark Cooper, whose Pirates rallied back from a 10-point deficit in the third period. “We really had to grind the game out. Neither team shot the ball very well.
“It was a game that could have went either way, and we were just fortunate to make enough plays late to separate the game.”
A Zach Vogel bucket 33 seconds into the fourth gave Ottawa its first advantage (30-28) since late in the opening stanza.
The teams, which combined to shoot 33.7 percent from the field and 15.2 percent on 3-pointers, proceeded to exchange leads three times over the next three minutes with L-P’s last coming at 4 1/2 minute mark.
A 3-ball by Anthony Cooper (12 points) on the ensuing possession knotted things at 37-37 before TJ McDonnell hit a pair of free throws to give the Pirates (2-2) an edge they wouldn’t relinquish.
L-P’s Tyler Hartman (14 points, 11 rebounds) quickly answered with a basket to tie it at 39-39, but Vogel (14 points, three blocks) and Anthony Cooper immediately responded with hoops to make the score 43-39 with 2:30 remaining.
From there, the Pirates sealed the deal from the charity stripe, knocking down 6-of-9.
Ottawa was 15-for-19 from the free throw line for the game, including 10-of-13 during the final quarter. McDonnell was 5-of-6.
The Cavaliers led 12-10 after one quarter and 21-14 at the half.
L-P (1-3) extended the margin to 10 points (26-16) 3 1/2 minutes into the second half before the Pirates closed the third with a 12-2 spurt — five of those points (a 3 and layup in transition) courtesy of Levi Sholders — to knot the contest 28-28 through three periods.
“I think it was (an even) game both ways,” L-P coach Jim Cherveny said. “I thought we played really well the first half. I thought they played really well the second half.
“We can’t allow a 10-point lead to slip in the second half. I mean, we’ve just got to play better. Our defense fell apart there for awhile.”
Cherveny hopes the tournament served as a learning experience for his Cavaliers.
“I mean, the competition’s great (here). I thought the experience was outstanding,” Cherveny said. “I hope what we can learn from the tournament is how to play with a lead, how to play without a lead — play under pressure a little bit — you know, teach the young kids just different aspects of the game.
“So I hope we got a good learning experience out of it.”