FORT MADISON — Even short-handed, the Ottumwa boys basketball team found a way to extend their last-season winning streak.
With senior starer Joe Hammer out of the line-up nursing lingering injuries, the Bulldogs were able to come through down the stretch scoring 15 of the final 18 points to rally past Fort Madison for a 53-42 non-conference victory on Tuesday.
Ottumwa has eclipsed their win total from a season ago, improving to 14-5 overall this season with five straight wins entering Friday's regular-season finale at home against Southeast Polk. The Bulldogs will look to win their sixth straight game heading into postseason play, which begins Monday night at Evans Middle School Gymnasium against Iowa City West.
"I thought, in the first half, we came out flat and our effort was not where we want it," Ottumwa head boys basketball coach Neil Hartz said of Tuesday's contest at Fort Madison. "We picked up the pressure more in the second half and attacked better."
It was a defensive play that kicked off the game's final run. Trailing 40-39, Kie Glosser collected a steal at mid-court for the Bulldogs and drove in for a go-ahead lay-up while being fouled.
Glosser hit the first of Ottumwa's eight made free throws in nine attempts during the closing 15-3 run. The Bulldogs made 15 of 16 free throw attempts in the second half and finished the game shooting 20-24 from the charity stripe while Fort Madison (8-10) managed just three makes in seven attempts.
"In the end, our guys overcame a slow start and locked in the second half," Hartz said. "We needed to get Armani Robinson some time at point guard. With Joe out, this provided him with some quality minutes. Cale (Leonard) played really well. We also got to start (senior) Ethan Vasconez."
Trae Swartz led Ottumwa in scoring, matching Fort Madison junior Dayton Davis in racking up 17 points. Matt Graeve added 12 points, sinking five of six free throws in the fourth quarter, while Gatlin Menninga stepped up with 11 points and a pair of key late blocks to help secure Ottumwa's fifth straight win.