Bulldogs battle Roughriders

Ottumwa senior Gatlin Menninga (left) goes up to prevent Des Moines Roosevelt sophomore Sam King (right) from scoring a lay-up during CIML Metro Conference boys basketball action on Friday night at Evans Middle School Gymnasium in Ottumwa.

OTTUMWA — Gatlin Menninga's first bid for a go-ahead basket resulted in a turnover, ultimately resulting in a tiebreaking basket for Des Moines Roosevelt on Friday night.

Neil Hartz had a little advice for one of his talented Ottumwa seniors should he get a second chance at driving to the basket.

"Stop being fancy and just go," Hartz told Menninga.

Menninga didn't have to wait long to prove that he got the message, hauling in a long rebound off a missed free throw by Jackari Bradley and driving directly to the basket, drawing a foul while scoring the game-tying lay-up.

Menninga added the free throw, giving Ottumwa the lead for good with 3:28 left. The Bulldogs would score seven of the next eight points, putting away a 41-37 win over Roosevelt avenging a surprising road loss suffered just 11 days earlier in Des Moines.

"Their defense is good, so coming down and trying to get our offense going was a little difficult," Menninga said after scoring 12 points on Senior Night for Ottumwa. "Those big run-out plays were huge for us."

Menninga joined fellow Ottumwa seniors Trae Swartz, Joe Hammer, Matt Graeve, Kie Glosser, Ethan Vasconez, Blessing Gbambo, Nathan Campbell and Ayden Jones who were honored before tip-off on Friday night. The game would end with Gbambo, Campbell, Jones and Vasconez on the floor finishing off a win set up by the unselfish play of Glosser, Graeve, Hammer and Swartz.

"We know Trae is going to get two or three defenders on him when he gets the ball on the post, so we know everyone on the court is going to have to step up," Hartz said. "He made some great passes to open guys and rebounded when he didn't get the ball. He wants to score, but winning is the main thing. It's the main thing for all of these seniors."

Perhaps no senior better encapsulates that than Hammer, who entered this season having finished second in scoring last season behind Swartz averaging 11 points a game. On his Senior Night, Hammer was unable to score a point.

And Ottumwa wouldn't have won without him.

Hammer's incredible floor game didn't need to include scoring. Six steals, six rebounds and four assists including a huge feed to Adam Greiner while scrambling through the press defense of the Roughriders helped Ottumwa (12-5, 5-3 CIML Metro) put the game away in the fourth.

"This year, Gatlin and Adam have stepped up with their scoring. Kie's the same shooter he's always been. I've been trying to set everyone up this year rather than try to get my own shots," Hammer said. "I know if I can get everyone else going and everyone else is scoring, it can open things up for myself. It also opens things up for Trae to get going.

"Joe's vision to get the ball up the court is huge for us. When you're going against a good defensive team like (Roosevelt), it's huge to be able to have someone with the ball that can help push us down the court."

The two leading scorers on last year's 13-win squad made the unselfish plays to secure the 12th win in 17 games on Friday. After Menninga's 3-point play gave Ottumwa a 32-31 lead, the Bulldogs got a rebound on a miss by Roosevelt and got the ball into the hands of Swartz, Ottumwa's fourth all-time 1,000-point scorer.

On came a Roosevelt triple team with under three minutes left. Rather than force a shot against three defenders, Swartz passed the ball out to Glosser who sank a wide open 3-pointer that put Ottumwa up 35-31, forcing the patient Roughriders to use a timeout and focus on finding points quickly.

"Getting a lead in the fourth quarter on a team like Roosevelt is huge. If they get you behind, you know they're going to hold the ball and bleed as much clock as possible," Hartz said. "When we played them here, they got up four with five minutes left and held it. We had to press them and had to get out of our comfort zone. Getting the lead in the fourth took them out of their comfort zone was huge late."

Roosevelt got within 35-32 on a free throw by Sam King with 1:57 left. Menninga then drew a foul eight seconds later and sank both free throws, giving Ottumwa a two-possession lead they wouldn't give back.

Adam Greiner capped a 14-point night for Ottumwa, making three of four free throws in the final minute for the Bulldogs. Bradley and Jamison Patton each scored 13 points to lead Roosevelt, who falls to 5-9 overall this season and 4-5 in the CIML Metro.

Ottumwa wraps up conference play on Saturday afternoon hosting Des Moines East. Des Moines Hoover ended Ottumwa's hope of claiming at least a share of the CIML Metro title with a 62-46 win on Friday against Des Moines Lincoln, but the Bulldogs could finish second in the conference with a win over the Scarlets and a loss by Des Moines North to Lincoln on Saturday.

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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