Roark leads Ottumwa to miraculous comeback victory
By ANDY HEINTZ
Courier sports writer
OTTUMWA — When the U.S. Olympics Hockey team upset the heavily-favored Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, NY, sportscaster Al Michaels uttered the now famous saying, “Do you believe in miracles?! Yes!”
This famous phrase also would have accurately described the Ottumwa girls basketball team’s thrilling 32-31 overtime victory Saturday over Fort Madison at Evans Middle School.
Things looked bleak, really bleak, for the Bulldogs with about one minute left in the fourth quarter. The girls trailed 30-22 and offered no hints of the ferocious comeback they were about to mount. After a strong first quarter, the girls had struggled mightily to put the ball in the hoop — they were shut out in the second quarter. And, further compounding their difficulties was the inconvenient fact that Megan Black and Hayli Beeson, arguably Ottumwa’s two best shooters, had fouled out. Indeed, nothing short of a miraculous comeback would be enough to get the Bulldogs the win. And that’s exactly what happened.
First, Olivia Roark, who led Ottumwa with 15 points, buried her first 3-pointer of the night. Moments later, the Bulldogs stole the ball in backcourt, which led to a layup by Averi Cash, who had just checked in for the first time in the game minutes before the shot.
Cash’s layup cut the Bloodhounds lead to 30-27.
Fort Madison’s turnover woes continued on ensuing possession as one of the Bloodhounds was whistled for traveling, which gave Ottumwa the ball back with a little over 12 seconds left in regulation. Again, Roark found herself open behind the 3-point line after her defender got knocked to the ground by a solid screen by Cash, and she knocked down the shot, tying the game at 30.
“I feel like I had to do my job and just work my butt off,” Roark said. “I had to shoot it so I just let it fly and it went in.”
“Her effort is nonstop all the time,” coach Kevin Patterson said about his senior guard.
The final seconds ticked off the clock and the game headed into overtime. Now that they had extended the game past regulation, the Bulldogs weren’t about to let this golden opportunity slip away.
“We were all like ‘we got to win this, we can do it,’” Alexis Winn, who knocked down what ended up being the game-winning free throw in overtime, said.
The game was tied at 31 when Winn was fouled inside with a little over 30 seconds left. She knocked down 1-of-2 from the charity stripe to give her team a one-point lead. The Bloodhounds failed to score again and Ottumwa picked up the victory.
“I told myself to block it out [the pressure] and treat it like another free throw,” Winn said after the game.
“It’s also big to have our post player have her best games back-to-back,” Patterson said about Winn.
The Bulldogs got off to a strong start in the first quarter and Black, who finished with 12 points, supplied the bulk of Ottumwa’s early offensive success. She banked in a shot to open the game and nailed a difficult jumper from the right baseline with a defender draped all over her. Roark complemented Black’s efforts by being extremely active on defense, as she stole a couple of passes, including one that she converted into a transition layup on the other end of the court. Ottumwa led 7-3 at the end of the quarter.
Unfortunately, the Bulldog offense went into a funk in the second quarter — nothing they threw up would fall. The Bulldogs poor shooting allowed Fort Madison to cut into and eventually eclipse Ottumwa’s lead. Bloodhound Rachel Steffensmeier knocked down a 3-pointer that narrowed the gap to 7-6 early in the quarter. Then in a possession where Fort Madison got three offensive rebounds, Caitlynn Holtkamp got fouled while trying to score inside. Holtkamp sank both free throws to give the Bloodhounds their first lead of the game — they wouldn’t relinquish the lead until the final seconds of regulation. Holtkamp got another bucket inside before halftime to give the Bloodhounds a 10-7 lead. Things were not looking good for Ottumwa: the Bulldogs hadn’t scored in the second quarter and the Fort Madison had ended the half on a 7-0 run.
The Bloodhounds widened their lead in the third quarter. Fort Madison’s Jordyn Meierotto knocked down a 3-pointer to give her team a 21-14 lead with 1:54 left in the quarter.
The Bulldogs substantially cut down their turnovers in the game compared to previous outings, turning the ball over only 11 times.
Much of this can be attributed to Sydney Strunk, who did an excellent job of running the offense. Although she struggled from the field, Beeson made up for it by pulling down a team-high nine rebounds. Roark led the team with five steals.
Ottumwa (2-4) plays Des Moines Hoover Tuesday at Evans Middle School.
“I think we should have came out better from the start but even if your down you have to fight back. ... You don’t give up,” Roark said.
Do you believe in miracles? Apparently the Bulldogs would answer that question with an emphatic yes!
Ottumwa 32, Fort Madison 31
Fort 3 7 11 9 1 — 31
Ottu 7 0 7 16 2 — 32
Fort (31) — Sarah Steffensmeier 2, Caitlin Marshall 3, Rachel Steffensmeier 6, Caitlynn Holtkamp 8, Ali Burghoffer 7, Jordan Meierotto 4. Totals 9G 11-23FT 31.
3-point goals — 2 (Steffensmeier, Meierotto). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — 21 (Holtkamp 4, Burghoffer 4). Blocks — Holtkamp. Total fouls — 13. Turnovers — 15.
Ottu (32) — Olivia Roark 15, Megan Black 12, Hayli Beeson 2, Alexis Winn 1, Averi Cash 2. Totals 9FG 8-13 32.
3-point goals — 3 (Roark 2). Fouled out — 2 (Black, Beeson). Rebounds — 25 (Beeson 9). Steals — 13 (Roark 5). Blocks — 1 (Black). Total fouls — 21. Turnovers — 11.