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Boys basketball: Golden Warriors hang with one-loss Bulldogs until stretch run

STERLING – A month ago, Sterling led Ottawa at the half before falling by 13.

On Friday, the Golden Warriors were within striking distance until late in the third quarter before the Pirates pulled away for a 54-35 Northern Illinois Big 12 West win at Musgrove Fieldhouse.

On Jan. 17, Sterling led Ottawa 39-38 at the half but lost 63-50. Friday, the Warriors hung tough until the Pirates used a 14-0 tear to put the game away. It was Sterling's fifth straight loss.

"We knew we had stuff to build off from the first game with them," said the Warriors' Zach Rehmert, who scored 12 points. "We were feeling pretty good, then they went on that 14-0 run. All of our heads just dropped right there.

"A good team like Ottawa, when they see that, they're going to put you away on the spot. And, that's what they did."

Trailing 40-33 with 2:16 left in the third quarter after a pretty fast-break bucket by Draque Penaflor-Heier, things suddenly went south for Sterling (6-12, 2-4), which did not score again until there was 3:20 to play.

Meanwhile, Ottawa (19-1, 8-0) scored the last three points of the third quarter and the first 11 points of the fourth. Point guard Brett Johnson, who scored a game-high 19 points, supplied half of the Pirates' points in the 14-0 burst.

"It's a combination of things right now with us," Warriors coach Jim Preston said. "Sometimes it's on the defensive end. Tonight, it was kind of our offense that hurt us. We didn't execute real well, and we just never got into a flow."

Sterling scored the first five points and led much of the first quarter. The score was tied at 15 heading to the second quarter.

Ottawa extended to a 31-20 lead with a 10-0 run late in the second quarter, and led 31-23 at the break.

Ottawa's length bothered Sterling greatly. Three of the Pirates' regulars are 6-foot-5, and two more are 6-3. The Warriors tallest players are 6-2. Sterling was just 12-for-40 (30 percent) from the floor.

Besides Rehmert, no other Warrior scored more than four points.

John Carroll and Isaac Gassman scored 13 points apiece for Ottawa.

Star of the game: Brett Johnson, Ottawa, 19 points

Key performers: John Carroll, Ottawa, 13 points, 12 rebounds; Zach Rehmert, Sterling, team-high 12 points, 7 rebounds

Up next: Kewanee at Sterling, 5:30 p.m. Saturday

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