The Ottawa Lady Pirates might want to get their running shoes ready because they could be in store for a track meet come Monday evening.
Ottawa (22-5) will face perennial state power Galesburg and "The System" — a run-and-shoot offense with an emphasis on shooting the 3 — in the semifinals of the Metamora Class 3A Sectional. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. In the other semi, No. 5 state-ranked Peoria Richwoods will meet East Peoria at 8:10 p.m.
"We're definitely playing one of the top programs in the entire state, and (Coach Evan Massey, who has compiled a 735-266 record in his 33 seasons on the Silver Streaks' bench and is a member of the IBCAHall of Fame) is one of the premier girls basketball coaches in the country," Lady Pirates coach Mike Cooper said. "But our kids only know the name across the front of their jersey, and that's about it. Our kids haven't been in awe of anybody this season ... and I honestly don't think that'll be an issue (Monday) night.
"(Our girls have) got pretty high expectations, and they're looking forward to the challenge of playing against a very talented Galesburg team."
The Silver Streaks (26-6) — winners of the Geneseo Regional and members of the Western Big 6 Conference — are putting up 69.9 points per game, with 48.3 percent of that scoring output coming on 3-pointers (360, which leaves them just six shy of re-setting the state single-season record they set last season. In a game earlier this season, Galesburg hit 22 3-pointers while attempting 72 — both state records.
The leading 3-point trigger girl for the Silver Streaks is sharpshooting all-state senior guard Jessica Howard, who averages 15.9 PPG(126 3s, fourth in a single season) to pace the offensive attack. In a game earlier this season, she hit 11 3-pointers, tied for third most in state history. Howard also ranks fourth all-time in career 3-pointers made with 365.
Lady Pirate defensive stopper Alex Ortiz will draw the assignment of defending Howard, who according to Cooper literally has to be guarded out to the volleyball line.
Jamie Johnson (5-foot-9) and Sadee Hamilton (5-8) are formidable post players for Galesburg.
Ottawa is surrendering only 40.6 points a contest and has yielded just 43 3-pointers the whole season.
"They're very potent offensively," Cooper said. "They like to get up and down the court. And the more 3s they can take, the happier they are.
"We'll try to stop the primary things they like to do and maybe try to get them to start doing some other things. Hopefully we're able to control them and hopefully they don't shoot quite as well."
One potential concern for Cooper is the Silver Streaks' mass substitutions.
"They like to sub in five people every 30 seconds, and when people are rotating in every 30 seconds, you've got to quickly figure out what their strengths and weaknesses are," Cooper said.
Defensively, Galesburg forces lots of turnovers with a running and trapping approach.
"They make you play faster than you want to at times, and when that happens you've got to be able to fight through that and make plays," Cooper said. "We have to be strong (with the basketball) and we've got to be able to take the ball to the basket and finish."
The Silver Streaks are giving up 57.3 points per game, and the Lady Pirates' size on the inside (the likes of Allie Miceli, Rachel Kindred and Asya Williams), along with their ability to knock down shots from the perimeter (Kelcie Rombach, Ortiz, Kara Kistenfeger,Erica Burgess) could cause problems.
"They've got so many different weapons as far as scoring," Massey said. "They've got multiple kids that can post-up. Their post players are bigger and stronger than our kids. They've got multiple kids that can shoot the ball."
Cooper believes the biggest key for his team will be getting through the initial eight minutes of play.
"If we can somewhat keep them under our thumb the first quarter and get a feel for how they play, I think we'll be OK. But if we get out there and get swept up in the moment and get behind by a bunch, then we're going to be fighting up-hill the rest of the night," he said.