GOODLAND, Kan. -- A sure bet entering this year's Topside Tip-Off Tournament would have been taking odds on McCook playing Ottawa, Kan. in the boys championship finals, and, unfortunately for the Bison, taking the Kansas squad to win.
For the fourth consecutive season, the Bison boys and Ottawa advanced to the championship game in the early-season tournament played in Goodland, Kan. For the fourth straight time, McCook finished second in the tournament after another loss to Ottawa.
The Bison couldn't stop 6-foot-7 Semi Ojeleye, the Ottawa junior guard who poured in 45 points in the tournament finale Saturday, Dec. 10, at Goodland's Max Jones Field House.
No one else on the Ottawa roster scored in double figures in Saturday's championship game.
McCook advanced to the finals with a strong 72-52 victory over Goodland Friday night.
Ojeleye shot 60 percent from the floor (15 for 25) and made all 13 of his free throw attempts against the Bison Saturday.
"He's a special player," said McCook head coach Tim Garcia. "He's the best player we'll see this year. He's probably the best individual player that we've played against since I've been a part of our program.
"He has the ability to score from anywhere on the court. He's a 6-7 guard that brings the ball down and runs the offense, unless they want to give him the ball in the post -- he can do that also."
Matt Chitwood paced McCook Saturday with 14 points, and Cody Wudtke added 10 points. Kyle Gaston, Sean Backer and Tate Stang chipped in 6 points each.
The Bison hit just 36 percent of their field goal attempts (18 for 50), including 9 of 21 from 3-point range, plus a 4-for-12 effort at the free throw line. Ottawa shot 51.5 percent from the floor (24 for 47), plus 21 of 27 at the charity stripe.
Collicott shines Friday
Matt Collicott had a strong game Friday to lead the Bison to the 20-point semifinal win over the tournament hosts.
Collicott, a 6-4 junior who competed on the McCook swimming team last winter, scored 20 points and grabbed 9 rebounds.
"What we discovered Friday night is we really need to utilize our post presence," Coach Garcia said. "Tate Stang (6-4 senior) was in a little bit of foul trouble, and Matt Collicott really stepped up. He had a pretty special game on Friday night.
"We've always known that our post players had the ability to be a major part of our offense, but Friday night was the first time that we really utilized them as much as we should have."
The Bison also had a strong supporting cast along with Collicott. Six other players tallied at least six points, with Cody Wudtke and Sean Backer scoring 9 each, Matt Chitwood and Mack Alspaugh with 8 apiece, plus Kyle Gaston and Cody Jankovits with 6 each.
"For this early in the season, Friday night against Goodland was probably the best total team effort that we've put forth so far," Garcia said. "We keep getting better and better in execution on offense and defense."
Despite the lopsided loss Saturday, Garcia said his team will learn some lessons from the game, and he was proud of his team's play throughout the game.
"That game makes us better," he said. "I found out about how mentally and physically tough our kids are Saturday night. I found out that we don't have any give-up in our game. These kids they battled until the game was over; they were extremely physical during the game. I definitely think we took several steps in the right direction -- even though we got a loss in the column, I think we became a better team because of that game."
Collicott and Chitwood were named to the All-Tournament team.
First home game Dec. 17
The Bison have a pair of key games next weekend in the final action before the Christmas break. McCook travels to North Platte Friday, with Holdrege at home Saturday.