OTTUMWA — After a first half that featured missed shots from close range, Ottumwa coach Kevin Patterson felt impelled to direct a challenge at Ottumwa post player Carrissa Hite.
Hite, Patterson felt, did not perform up to her skill level in the half and he let her know she could do better. The result? a reinvigorated Hite put together her best half of the season: She finished with a team-high 15 points and 11 rebounds.
But, alas, the Ottumwa forward's stupendous performance wasn't enough to garner Ottumwa a victory, as the Bulldogs fell to Washington in a heartbreaker 48-47 Tuesday at Evans Middle School.
Still, Patterson had ample praise for the venerable way his forward responded to his challenge.
"She [Hite] struggled from the field in the first half, he said, "and at halftime I really challenged her to play up to her potential and that's the best I've ever seen a post player respond from being challenged at halftime. She's totally capable of that game in and game out. She's got a lot of length, and when she believes in her moves, it's very hard for the defense to stop her. I thought it was really good that she saw mismatches — they were short, so she took it at them."
"I've got the mentality that my coach believes in me, so I know I have get that way, too," Hite added. "In the second half I knew I really needed to finish and go with confidence. That's been a struggle for me lately, my last two games have been kind of rocky, so I knew I was due for a good game and I showed it.
"Every shot is not going to go in. After my first bad shots, I started getting on my roll."
The game literally went down to the last second. Megan Black pushed the ball up the court and navigated her way through the Demon defense before hoisting up a layup. The shot was a little off the mark, but Rachel Zingg grabbed the rebound and attempted a put-back. Her shot was blocked and time expired, which drew a loud complaint from Patterson who felt Zingg was fouled on the play. Patterson's protests led him to be hit with technical foul, but at that point, that game was over anyway.
Despite the controversial ending, Ottumwa's coach said there were other intangibles that hurt his team's chances of picking up that elusive first win.
"We missed nine layups in the first half and that really killed us in a one-point game," Patterson said. "If we convert a couple of those it's probably a different game."
Hayli Beeson sparked Ottumwa early by drilling three 3-pointers and Kristi Cary also helped ignite the Bulldog offense with a season-high eight points.
And, in a welcome departure from Ottumwa's first two games, the Bulldogs shot a much better percentage from the free-throw line: They were 16-for-23.
"I think we fought really well," Hite said. "We had a really good mindset of what we were going to do. There were things we could have finished and layups that didn't go in, but we played a really good game."
Ottumwa (0-3) plays at 6:15 p.m. Friday at Des Moines Lincoln in its first CIML Metro Conference game.
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WASHINGTON 48, OTTUMWA 47
Wash 12 10 20 6 — 48
Ottu 16 5 16 10 — 47
Washington (48) — Grace Redlinger 16, Amber Salow 16, Dylann Schluetter 4, Elle VanGundy 2, Dema Giardino 4, Stephanie Fishback 6.
Ottumwa (47) — Carrissa Hite 15, Hayli Beeson 9, Kristi Cary 8, Megan Black 5, Averi Cash 2, Rachel Zingg 2, Devin Leffler 4, Dani Reed 2.
3-point goals — 3 (Beeson 3). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — 35 (Hite 11, Black 6, Leffler 5, Beeson 4, Zingg 4, Reed 3, Cary 2). Assists — 5 (Black 2, Reed, Leffler, Cash). Steals — 10 (Cary 4, Zingg, Black 3, Reed, Leffler). Blocks — 3 (Zingg, Leffler, Hite). Total Turnovers — 17.