With March around the corner, basketball fans have started looking for a tournament team they think can get hot and make a run.

With March around the corner, basketball fans have started looking for a tournament team they think can get hot and make a run.

The Geneseo Maple Leafs put their names into the conversation with an emphatic 55-35 victory over Northern Illinois Big 12 champions Ottawa.

“If it means we are going to start playing like this it gives the regional a whole different complexion,” Geneseo coach Brad Storm said. “We are going in playing to win, but if we play like this, I think we are a serious contender.”

After winning four of their last five games, the Maple Leafs (14-11) have the look of a team peaking at the right time with regionals starting, Tuesday, March 3 against Sterling at 7:30 p.m.

The Maple Leafs have spent most of this season flirting with taking a step to the next level, yet lapses have made for an up-and-down team.

However, against Ottawa Geneseo had the look of a different team dictating and dominating the game.

Forward Drew Himmelman dunked twice during the Leafs’ first handful of possessions to help Geneseo stake a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Maple Leafs’ energy was emulated by the capacity crowd cheering in full throat throughout the game.

By halftime Geneseo led 23-14, following four points from Himmelman in the final two minutes.

Against the Pirates, the Leafs turned in their most complete game shutting down Ottawa’s offense in the second half.

Himmelman finished with 20 points and 18 rebounds for the Leafs, including 10 boards in the second half.

“We know we have some good potential,” Himmelman said. “We know this whole season has been kind of up-and-down and wishy-washy. It’s coming down to crunch time, and we want to play our best basketball right now.”

After struggling in the third quarter during recent games, Geneseo’s Will Daniels kept the momentum on the Leafs side.

The junior guard, Daniels drove the lane for a pair of acrobatic scores to give the Leafs a 13 point cushion to end any Pirates comeback thoughts.

“We were thinking back to the last time we played them at Ottawa,” Daniels said. “The game didn’t end up the way we wanted it, and we gave them way too many free throws. It was a pretty poor game for us, so we knew we couldn’t let it happen again.”

The Geneseo defense held Ottawa to 12-of-40 shooting, while the Leafs offense outscored the Pirates in all four quarters.

Daniels finished with 15 points, and Quentin Radue added nine points.

Greg Rusk led the Leafs with six assists, and Anthony Bravata tallied three points.

With a big lead late, Geneseo’s bench got a chance to get into the game.

The Leafs’ Cooper Humphries made a 3-pointer and finished with four points, and Ryan Hartsock tallied two points.

“A lot of guys stepped up,” Storm said. “(Himmelman) had almost every single rebound that came off, and guys were cutting and finishing. We had some great defensive efforts, not just starters but guys off the bench. This is what we have to have. When we put all these things together it’s like we have been telling them. We have been close to being a really good team all along, and against Ottawa we were a really good team.”