Friends was the second seed in the KCAC women’s basketball tournament, but hosting a semifinal home game didn’t mean much Saturday against a hot-shooting Ottawa opponent.
Ottawa played much better than its 11-17 record and as a result, the Braves find themselves in Monday’s KCAC final after a 71-63 victory.
For Friends, it was a bitter pill – especially after winning both regular-season meetings against Ottawa. Friends took an 18-point victory at home and a five-point triumph at Ottawa on Feb. 18 – the Braves’ senior night.
“They made big shots; we didn’t,” Friends coach RaeAnne Boothe said. “They did a great job. Morgan Grammer is the best point guard in the league, and (Saturday) she proved it.”
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Ottawa made 14 of 19 free throws and nine three-pointers.
Ottawa (12-17) will face top-seeded and 13th-ranked Tabor on Monday at Hartman Arena. The Bluejays (25-7) defeated Southwestern 67-45 in the other semifinal at Hillsboro.
His team might be facing the KCAC’s lone ranked team in the final, but Ottawa coach Bruce Tate was beaming after the semifinal victory.
“We’ve got eight seniors in this group, and they’ve been through the trenches the past couple of years,” Tate said. “I felt that we underachieved during the regular season. They’re coming together at the right time.”
Tate said it’s not easy to win at Friends.
“I haven’t won here since 2006-2007 (season),” he said. “Very tough place to win.”
He said there were a number of factors in the victory.
“I told the girls that we’re one of the top free-throw teams in the nation,” he said. “Once we get in the bonus, we’ve got to be in attack mode and find a way to get to the free-throw line.”
A big contributor was senior point guard Grammer, who hit 7 of 8 in the fourth quarter and 11 of 12 in the game, helping preserve Ottawa’s cushion. She scored a game-high 17 points.
“This summer, I focused more on my free throws and my threes, because previous years I’ve struggled,” Grammer said. “But I had to knock down some free throws, and that’s what we did.”
The Braves were able to prevent Friends (22-10) from getting baskets in transition. When the Falcons did draw the foul, they were unable to convert, making 1 of 8 free throws.
Tate said he’s looking forward to facing Tabor, a team that swept them, but only won 67-63 at Ottawa on Jan. 16.
“We had a chance to get them at our place, and they’ve got players all over the floor and their bench is really deep,” he said. “We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing that got us here, and not allow the height and pressure to get to us and just play some basketball.”
Ottawa: Romig 14, Grammer 17, Strader 3, Thomas 10, Stewart 14, Hodison 2, King 8, Boden 3. Totals 24-57 14-19 71.
Friends: Sanders 8, Sellers 16, Holtz 11, Grant 11, Torres 3, Britton 14. Totals 28-68 1-8 63.
Three-pointers – Ottawa 9-20 (Stewart 4-6, Thomas 2-7, Romig 1-1, Boden 1-1, Grammer 0-2); Friends 6-22 (Grant 2-3, Britton 2-4, Torres 1-3, Holtz 1-5, Sanders 0-2, Quiroz 0-2, Justice 0-3). Rebounds – Ottawa 42 (Romig 10), Friends 37 (Sellers 14). Assists – Ottawa 12 (Strader 4), Friends 12 (Sellers 4). Fouls – Ottawa 13, Friends 22.
Monday at Hartman Arena
Women: Ottawa (12-17) vs. No. 13 Tabor (25-7), 6 p.m.
Men: Southwestern (26-6) vs. No. 6 Tabor (29-3), 8 p.m.