OTTAWA — The Ottawa Lady Pirates and Kaneland Knights stepped onto the Kingman Gymnasium floor Saturday night for Round 2 of their defensive tussle.
At the end of 32 minutes of play, it was the latter's endurance and execution that won out.
A closely-contested battle quickly swung in favor of Kaneland late in the third period when it got five straight points from Kelsey Modaff — following an offensive rebound and steal, respectively. From there, the Knights were able to cling to a minimal edge and defeat Ottawa 35-31 in the title tilt of the 33rd annual Ottawa Lady Pirate Holiday Tournament.
It's the third time in four years, including the last two, Kaneland has won the event. Ottawa is 5-8 in championship games since the tournament went to that format in 1994.
The teams also squared off on the hardwood Dec. 6 at Kingman in a NIB 12 encounter, with Ottawa the victor, 30-29.
"We knew it was going to be a defensive battle ... and it was everything we expected," Lady Pirates coach Brent Moore said. "We just couldn't do enough of the little things toward the end of the game to get the job done. And credit Kaneland and their hard-nosed defense. I mean, they played extremely hard.
"It was a battle for three quarters. It came down to execution in the fourth quarter, and they executed, we didn't."
Ottawa (11-3), which saw its seven-game winning streak snapped, held a six-point advantage (24-18) with less than three minutes remaining in the third period. The Knights put up the next nine points, capped off by Modaff's 3-pointer at the 40-second mark to give them their first lead and layup in transition in the waning seconds after a swipe by Maddy Wheatley.
Kaneland led 27-24 through three.
"We needed that (spurt)," Knights coach Ernie Colombe said. "You know, we were a little tired, and we were guessing they were too. (Both teams played earlier in the day.) We play a little bit deeper bench, so we thought if we could kind of wear them out a little bit, we could make a run a little bit later in the game, and luckily that's what happened."
"Yeah, I would say that was the big momentum-shifter of the game," Moore said. "We couldn't clean up a defensive rebound — which we did a great job of all game (the Lady Pirates were plus-13 on the glass, 32-19) — they kick it back out to Modaff for a 3, now all of a sudden it's a ballgame again. And we did not have a great third quarter (getting doubled-up on the scoreboard, 14-7)."
Ottawa did regain the lead, 30-29, on a Regan O'Fallon turnaround, one-hander in the lane with 3 minutes, 4 seconds showing on the clock in the fourth quarter. Keely Noel answered with a basket shortly thereafter, though, to give Kaneland an advantage it wouldn't relinquish. Tournament MVP Chloe Conley sealed the repeat for the Knights (10-3), winner of seven in a row (their last loss that initial Ottawa matchup), by sinking a pair of free throws with 10.7 seconds to go.
"We caught a few breaks," Colombe said. "They missed a few shots, luckily. We got a few shots to fall.
"It was two good teams battling. It was a fun game."
Ottawa led 7-6 after one quarter and 17-13 at the half.
Modaff scored 14 points, 10 of those during the third period, to lead Kaneland.