La PORTE — Fresh off a hard-fought, physical victory a night earlier over South Bend Adams, La Porte had to be cognizant of an emotional letdown against county rival New Prairie.
On the strength of an exceptional start and stingy defense, the Slicers dispatched the Cougars 61-42 on Saturday night at Slicer Gym.
La Porte was coming off a 80-68 home win over the Eagles on Friday night. The Slicers (4-4) didn’t rest on their laurels, though, racing out to a 15-0 lead and never trailing all night against New Prairie (3-6).
“Coach really emphasized avoiding a letdown,” La Porte shooting guard Garrott Ott-Large said. “Because last Saturday we beat Hobart, but then, Tuesday we lost at Lowell by four. So he really emphasized that. After the win Friday night, he said, ‘This is a good win for us, but we can’t come out and lay an egg Saturday. We’ve got to come out ready to go and keep that mindset going.’”
It’s the Slicers’ third victory in its last four games.
La Porte tallied the game’s first 15 points and didn’t let the Cougars score for the first nearly four minutes. Drake Gunn was effective offensively for the Slicers, aiding their 12-0 start after his three-point play with 5:42 left in the first. A minute later, Jake Spence’s 3-pointer made it 15-0 and forced the visitors’ second timeout.
La Porte was hot behind the arc in the opening half, connecting on six 3-pointers. Garrott Ott-Large nailed three treys before the break. That helped it go ahead as many as 21 in the first half.
“A lot of it was our focus and energy, (which allowed the team to earn the victory),” La Porte coach Kyle Benge said. “We knew everything we did Friday night that was positive and we had to take steps forward tonight. If we took a step back tonight, it was like last night was kind of pointless.”
After the visitors trailed big early, they pulled within seven late in the opening period. The Slicers led 17-10 following the first and 36-21 at the break.
On the night, the Cougars finished only 11-for-37 (30 percent) from the field. And La Porte used a full-court press in the first quarter to give the visitors’ problems.
“Our fight was there,” first-year New Prairie coach Kris Davis said. “Again, we just struggle to knock down shots. It was just a struggle all night. We’d go on a little run, and then, they hit tough shots. I credit La Porte.”
In the second half, the Slicers’ advantage ballooned to 24, as the Cougars never got closer than 13. That permitted all 12 La Porte players who dressed to see action.
Garrott Ott-Large paced the Slicers with a game-high 19 points, including 5-of-11 from downtown. Gunn and Grant Ott-Large both notched 12 points, while Spence recorded nine points.
As a team, the Slicers went 9-for-21 (43 percent) behind the arc.
“Tonight they guarded us better on the inside,” Benge said. “So that allowed our outside shooters to have plenty of opportunities. And we took advantage of them.”
No Cougar, meanwhile, finished in double-figure scoring. Chase Ketterer led the visitors with nine points, and Braydon Flagg was right behind with eight points. Cade Boniface chipped in seven points.
Despite the deficit, Davis took solace in his squad’s determination.
“We haven’t lost a fight,” he said. “We’re still fighting hard. We’re still playing tough. We’re still looking to take some charges. Stuff that we can build off of. We’re playing a lot of younger kids, too.”
Davis added three sophomores, Hunter Smith, Rylan McBride and Flagg gained experience.
La Porte next plays in the IWU Shootout at Indiana Wesleyan in Marion on Friday. It meets Twin Lakes in the opener of Session 1 at 8 a.m. South Bend St. Joseph meets Logansport in Game 2 at about 9:45 a.m. In the second session later that day, Twin Lakes plays St. Joseph at 1 p.m., and the Slicers face Logansport at roughly 2:45 p.m. All times are CST.
New Prairie’s junior varsity edged La Porte 46-42. Tanner Moreno, Devin Szalay and Noah Brettin led the Cougars with nine points apiece. Grant Gresham guided the Slicers with 10 points, and Jay Tucker scored eight.
La Porte 61, New Prairie 42
Garrott Ott-Large tallied 19 points for the Slicers, who led 15-0 at the outset. The Cougars’ Chase Ketterer registered nine points.