OTTUMWA — It took everything the Ottumwa boys basketball team had less than 24 hours earlier to outlast Des Moines Roosevelt in the penultimate CIML Metro conference game of the season.
Would that win take too much out of the Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon against Des Moines East? That was the biggest question looming on the mind of OHS head boys basketball coach Neil Hartz.
"Our biggest concern was coming off a big four-point (41-37) win over Roosevelt the nigh before," noted Hartz. "We were concerned about physical and mental fatigue."
East would open the scoring on a 3-point goal, but the Bulldog response would be quick and aggressive. Joe Hammer would hit a pair of 3-pointers, one from the right wing and one from the left wing to fire up the Bulldog offensive engine. Ottumwa would outscore the Scarlets 13-3 over the final six minutes of the first quarter on the way to an 81-59 victory over the Scarlets.
Hammer put eight Bulldog points on the board in the first quarter for the home team. Senior Trae Swartz pulled down three rebounds as the Bulldogs controlled the boards.
The Bulldogs would open the second quarter of play with a 16-8 lead. East would again initiate the scoring with a steal and lay-up.
JeCari Patton drove to the basket, scoring for East with just over three minutes to cut the Bulldog lead to seven. That would be the closest margin for the visitors on the rest of the night.
Leading 31-23 with two minutes remaining in the half, senior Matt Graeve went up on a jumper in the paint over the 6-6 Scarlet post Tyron Wright, sending the Bulldogs to a 10-point lead. The Scarlets would hit the final two field goals of the half, but still trailed by 10 at the half 37-27.
Ottumwa unleashed the dogs during the third quarter of play as they revved up the offensive engine, putting 25 points on their side of the scoreboard during the third frame while holding the visitors to 13 points during that span. Adam Greiner held a hot hand for the Bulldogs, dropping in 10 points during the quarter on two lay-ups, a fall away jumper and four free throws.
Ottumwa would head to the final frame with a commanding 62-40 lead. The Bulldogs were strong from the charity stripe in the final period, hitting nine of 11 attempts.
Blessing Gbambo ended the contest hitting two consecutive free throws for the Bulldogs with 11 seconds on the clock.
"One of our goals was to get a lot of our guys playing time, especially with four games in the next five days," Hartz said.
Greiner led the Bulldogs in scoring with 20 points. Swartz added 17, Graeve scored 14 and Hammer chipped in 11 points.
The win matches the victory total from last season for the Bulldog boys, who have followed up a 13-10 season with a current 13-5 mark one week before postseason play begins. Ottumwa finishes third in the CIML Metro with a final record of 5-3 in conference play, one game behind Des Moines Hoover and just a half-a-game behind Des Moines North.
Ottumwa was scheduled to face 11-2 Waukee in a battle of teams hoping to qualify for the Class 4A boys state basketball tournament on Monday. Weather forced the game to be canceled, leaving the state tournament as the only place where the Bulldogs and Warriors might possibly face off this season.
"Waukee features five D-I players," quipped Hartz.
Ottumwa returns to the court Tuesday night at Fort Madison. The Bulldogs wrap up the regular season at home on Friday against Southeast Polk before hosting Iowa City West in the Class 4A substate tournament opener on Monday, Feb. 22.
Teams 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Final
DSM East 8 19 13 19 59
Ottumwa 16 21 25 19 81