OTTAWA —Throughout the season for the Ottawa boys basketball team, it's been different players stepping up at different times that has helped the Pirates suffer just a lone loss in its first 14 games.
Coming off last week's tough loss in the championship game of the Plano Christmas Classic that snapped a run of 13 straight victories, Ottawa was looking to start a new win streak and begin 2019 on a solid note as it hosted Morris on Friday night.
The teams struggled out of the gate, the Pirates holding a four-point lead after one quarter, but Ottawa senior guard Wyatt Hill provided the spark in the second. Hill scored 13 of his game-high 21 points in the frame, hitting all five of his shots, including three of his four hoops from beyond the arc. The hosts used that effort to outscore the Redskins 21-8 to hold a commanding 35-18 advantage at the half on the way to a 63-39 Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference triumph.
The Ottawa win over Morris was its eight straight in the series dating back to 2012-13 and improved the Pirates to 14-1 overall and 5-0 in the league, while Morris falls to 5-9, 0-2.
"Wyatt was very good tonight and he had complete command of the game on all aspects from start to finish," Ottawa coach Mark Cooper said of Hill, who also ended with a team-best four rebounds and four assists. "He is a four-year varsity kid and he is playing very well right now. His floor game has been good all year and he has guarded well. He looks very comfortable and confident on the floor right now. He is in a very good place."
Ottawa, which shot 62 percent from the field in the game, used a layup from Tyler Carson and steal turned one-handed dunk by Myles Tucker to grab an early 4-0 lead. Morris then scored five straight before the hosts went on a 10-0 run which included four of Dakota Deverteuil's 10 points and an and-1 by Keegan Landers.
After Carson's lay-in off a Hill helper began the second stanza, Hill splashed a triple from the right wing and Deverteuil added a free throw to give the Pirates a double-digit led at 20-10 with 6 minutes, 45 seconds on the clock. Hill continued the assault, nailing a NBA-range 3 at 2:16 and converting in close 40 seconds later. He then closed out the first half with a deep trey from the right wing with two seconds left to give his team a 17-point cushion at the intermission.
"The number one thing on our board in pregame was to limit Ottawa's chances in transition. Hill is so good at finding open teammates and their team is so quick getting down the floor. They did have some run-outs, but overall I felt we did a good job in that area," said Morris coach Joe Blumberg, his team turning the ball over 20 times and hitting just 38 percent from the floor.
"We thought coming into tonight Ottawa's offensive game plan would be to attack, attack, attack. We don't have the guys to defend out at the volleyball line and the drive as well, so we wanted to make them beat us from beyond the arc. Hill knocked down a couple on us, but I thought we did OK other then letting him get free a few times."
Ottawa's lead grew to as many as 28 (46-18) late in the third — Hill and Deverteuil combining for 10 points — before Jacob Overbeck netted six of his team-high 15 points on back-to-back triples to close out the period with the home team ahead 46-26.
"I thought we were sluggish on both ends of the floor in the first quarter, but offensively we seemed to pick things up a little. Morris shot the ball pretty well in the first, but I thought we did a better job making their shots tougher as the game went on," said Cooper.
"It's the first game back after the Christmas tournament, both schools aren't back to school yet, so the first quarter both ways was a struggle."