OTTAWA — The burgeoning post-Thanksgiving rivalry between the Ottawa Pirates and Metamora Redbirds on the hardwood resumed Saturday evening, yet again with a first-place plaque at stake. And as usual, the contest wasn't decided until the final eight minutes of play.
In the end, though, the lanky Redbirds and standout junior Collin Dietz were a little bit too much for the Pirates to handle.
Dietz, Metamora's NCAA Division I prospect, was able to get out into transition several times and score at will during the second half — outpointing Ottawa by himself after the break and leading the 'Birds to a 50-42 win in the championship game of the 13th annual Dean Riley "Shootin' the Rock" Thanksgiving Tournament here at Kingman Gym.
Metamora has won the event six times in the last seven years. Ottawa hasn't claimed the crown in a decade.
"I thought we gave a championship effort tonight; they're just a little bit better," Pirates coach Mark Cooper said. "I mean, that's a good, long basketball team (six of the eight Redbirds that played stood 6-3 or taller), and, you know, we hung in there. We just weren't good enough to get it done tonight."
"Those (Ottawa) kids, they're awfully well-coached every year; it's always a battle," Redbirds coach Danny Grieves said, "so we knew that it was going to come down to the fourth quarter, and that's what happened."
Metamora (3-1), which built a 13-3 advantage behind a trio of 3-pointers from 6-foot-8-inch Thomas Hall, led 16-9 after the opening quarter. The Pirates got going in the right direction during the second stanza, outscoring the Redbirds 18-10 — half of that production courtesy of Myles Tucker (13 points) — to hold a one-point edge, 27-26, at the intermission.
"I thought we had a good bounce to us," Cooper said of the Pirates in the second quarter. "We were playing downhill. That's the way this group has to play if we're going to be successful."
Dietz (23 points) began his takeover by scoring the initial six points out of the locker room. Meanwhile, the Pirates could muster just one field goal make and four points during the third period. Despite that, they trailed by only five (36-31) through three.
However, the 6-5 Dietz went to work at the outset of the fourth quarter, quickly putting the first six points on the board to extend Metamora's margin to 11 points, 42-31. He later added a couple more takes to the hoop to put things out of reach.
Defense was the difference, though.
"We said at halftime, the defense is going to have to win it for us, and that's what happened," Grieves said. "(Tucker) had 12 (points) at the half ... and he had one point the second half. I thought our defense did a nice job of taking Ottawa out of what they do. ... We wanted their leading scorer not to get his points, (and Wyatt Hill) ended up with 15, but we held him to two field goals (made) for the first three quarters."
"I thought their length at the rim bothered a few of our shots, and they had a couple key blocks that led to some run-outs at the other end. I just thought maybe their overall size wore us down," Cooper said. "When we did get to the rim in the second half, we weren't able to finish due to their length and rim protection."
With a lone returning player having significant varsity minutes, the tournament and facing a program the caliber of Metamora was all about "growth" for the inexperienced Pirates, which finished 2-2.
"I think it's good for Ottawa and Metamora when we're able to meet in these games on Saturday night (the schools have squared off in the title tilt three times in the last five years)," Cooper said. "They've always been highly-competitive (the average point differential has been 5.7), and if you want to grow as a basketball team these are the kind of games you want to be in.
"We played in four tight basketball games, and those are the types of games that allow growth."
At Kingman Gym, Ottawa
Metamora 50, Ottawa 42
(Key: FG FT-FTA TP)
METAMORA (50) — Havens 3 5-6 11, Damery 0 0-1 0, Hall 4 0-0 12, Dietz 11 1-2 23, Bachman 0 1-2 1, Mann 0 0-0 0, Mason 1 1-2 3, Nelan 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 8-13 50.
OTTAWA (42) — Owens 1 0-0 2, Tucker 5 2-6 13, Hill 5 3-3 15, K. Brent 1 0-0 2, Evola 1 0-0 2, R. Brent 1 0-0 2, Dougherty 0 0-0 0, Carson 1 0-0 2, Gould 1 2-2 4. Totals 16 7-11 42.
Metamora (3-1) 16 10 10 14 — 50
Ottawa (2-2) 9 18 4 11 — 42
3-point goals — Metamora 4 (Hall 4); Ottawa 3 (Hill 2, Tucker 1). Rebounds — Metamora 34; Ottawa 20. Turnovers — Metamora 12; Ottawa 4. Total fouls (none fouled out) — Metamora 9; Ottawa 16.
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Phil Chapman is an avid basketball fan that has served as the voice of the Newark Norsemen over the last three seasons. Phil will be broadcasting the games at the Plano Christmas Classic