Courier Staff Writer
The girls Ottumwa basketball coach Kevin Patterson will lead a team onto the court Tuesday at Evans Middle School that looks nothing like its predecessors.
Yet, the philosophy that undergirds Patterson-coached teams will remain the same: defend the ball well. That’s why the team’s practices have largely focused on three areas of the game: defense, defense and defense.
“Every year our main focus is on the defensive end,” Patterson, who won CIML Metro coach of the year in his first season at the helm, said. “We want to guard before we do anything else. That is going to be something we have to rely on. ... Regardless of experience you have to be able to play defense and rebound.”
Because of the outsized role last season’s talent-laden senior class — five of last year’s seniors went on to play in college — played in the team’s success, Patterson finds himself with a team lacking in players with varsity experience. To compensate for the experience deficit, Patterson said the team will lean heavily on its two seniors: Olivia Roark and Sydney Strunk. Thus far, the coach has been heartened by the leadership qualities both girls have displayed in practice.
“Every time we do sprints, they are in the top two or three,” Patterson said. “The kids can look to them as a model of how hard you have to play to be a varsity basketball player.”
Unfortunately, an injury to Sammy Garrett, who tore her right anterior cruciate ligament before volleyball season started this fall, has left Patterson short one senior player.
In addition, he said juniors Hayli Beeson and Megan Black have both shown improvement in their games. Although Patterson places a heavy emphasis on defense, his practices are not completely offense-free.
“We’re working on pushing the ball on offense,” he said.
In fact, the coach said his team may have to fast break more than they did last season.
“We’re probably not going to shoot the ball as well, so we will need to get easier shots,” Patterson said.
Offensively, the coach said he expects Black and Roark to be the two main scoring options. He said juniors Alexis Winn and Averi Cash will also be expected to play a role in the Bulldogs offensive success. Carissa Hite, In addition, Rachel Zingg and Devin Leffler will play the post positions for Ottumwa, the coach said.
The coach said he saw some things he liked when Ottumwa took on West Des Moines Dowling Catholic for a half at West Des Moines Valley’s jamboree.
“I think we did an OK job rebounding,” he said, “I’d say halfcourt guarding and rebounding were our strengths.”
The breadth of the Maroons buckets came off Ottumwa turnovers, he said.
It will be quite a challenge for Patterson and company to match or eclipse the accomplishments of last year’s squad. The Bulldogs went 15-8, which included an 11 game winning streak; and captured a share of the CIML Metro Conference title for the first time in 10 years. Led by Kelsey Nickerson, who holds the school record for career 5-on-5 scoring and put up 41 points against Marshalltown; and Rachel Hinebaugh, the Bulldogs players provided Patterson with a memorable first year as coach of the Ottumwa program. Other important contributors to last year’s squad were point guard Ashley Salgado, who led the state in assists and led the conference in steals; and Avery Roane and Tara Gott.
Now the coach has an almost completely new group of girls to refine into a cohesive unit capable of winning games. The girls first challenge will be this Tuesday when they take on Fairfield at Evans Middle School.
Ottumwa picked up its first win of the season over the Trojans last season, whipping Fairfield 68-51 on the road. The win was sorely needed for the Bulldogs, who lost their first four games. It also was the springboard to what would turn out to be an 11-game winning streak.
Sidney Baumann, who was a junior at the time; scored 11 points in the contest for the Trojans and averaged a little over nine points a game. The Trojans, who finished 8-13 last season, enter the contest with a roster brimming with experience: last year’s squad included nine juniors and a sophomore.
“They are a little bigger than us and hopefully our transition game will help in combatting that,” Patterson said.