Isaiah Palmer was beginning to doubt his shot, and for good reason.
For more than a half, Kansas Wesleyan held Ottawa's leading scorer in check and appeared to have weathered an early storm by the Braves.
Then Palmer awoke, and it was lights out for the Coyotes.
Palmer went on a personal 13-1 tear, knocking down three 3-pointers in 59 seconds and single-handedly breaking open a close game Wednesday night as No. 5-seeded Ottawa came from behind in the second period to knock off No. 4 Wesleyan, 79-74, in a Kansas Conference postseason tournament quarterfinal at Mabee Arena.
The loss ended the season for Wesleyan, which finished at 17-12. Ottawa (18-13) advances to the semifinals and will take on top seed Oklahoma Wesleyan at 2 p.m. Saturday in Bartlesville, Okla.
"It's tough," Wesleyan coach Anthony Monson said. "We all wanted to get out of the first round."
The Coyotes appeared to be on their way to a three-game season sweep of Ottawa when they reeled off seven straight points to lead 54-47 on a James Brooks 3-pointer with 13:11 left. That after they had cut a 12-point first-half deficit to 39-36 at the break.
But Palmer, a 6-foot-6 senior from Brooklyn, N.Y., had other ideas.
"I was in a little slump where I was relying on my jumper too much," said Palmer, who scored 20 of his game-high 23 points in the second half. "Then I got a rebound and scored on a put-back and got a dunk. And when I hit that first three, I said it's time to take over this game."
Actually it was backup forward Mason McDow's 3-pointer that started the Ottawa comeback, followed by two Darryl Bowie baskets sandwiched around an Ithello Cross inside bucket for the Wesleyan.
A Palmer 3-pointer capped a 10-2 spurt to give the Braves the lead back, and after Cross answered with a reverse layup, Tasmania Jones put the Braves in front for good, 59-58, with a pair of free throws at the 9:07 mark. Then Palmer took over, getting fouled as he drained a three from the left corner, and following a rebound on his missed free throw, connecting from the other side.
Wesleyan was unable to stop the bleeding, missing a 3-pointer at the other end and Palmer pushed the lead to 10 with another bomb. He followed a Wesleyan free throw from Jordan McNelly with a 15-foot jumper with 7:07 remaining and it was 70-59.
"I thought we were doing a good job in the second half on Palmer," Monson said. "We had that (seven-point) lead and we came out of the timeout and fell asleep on McDow, who for all intents and purposes all he wants to do is shoot the three.
"That kind of ignited it and then we were a little bit late closing out Palmer and he got to see one finally go down and that's what started everything."
The Coyotes got back within seven, 72-65 with 4:21 left, on back-to-back baskets by AJ Range and cut it to 74-68 on Range's foul shot at the 1:25 mark. After three Ottawa free throw stretched it back to nine, Wesleyan then made it a one-possession game at the 9.9-second mark on 3-pointers by Marquis Kraemer and Brooks three second apart.
But two free throws from Ryan Haskins iced it.
"This is a tough place to play," Ottawa coach Aaron Siebenthall said of Mabee Arena, where his Braves lost 105-82 on Jan. 30. "Kansas Wesleyan is a good basketball team, especially defensively, because they take us out of a lot of stuff we like to do.
"This was a good team win for us."
In addition to Palmer, who also helped Ottawa to a 35-29 rebounding advantage with 11, the Braves got 13 points and eight rebounds from Tasmania Jones and 10 points off and four assists off the bench from Bowie.
McNelly had 17 points and Range 16 with eight rebounds for Wesleyan. Brooks finished with 13, while Kraemer and Cross each had 10.
"It always sucks when your season ends like this, but only one team gets to end the season with a championship," Monson said. "Obviously this is a learning experience and I'm proud of my guys."