OTTUMWA — It was a big night at Evans Middle School Gymnasium.
The Ottumwa High School student section was back for the first time this season and were prepared to celebrate a huge milestone and a huge win.
Trae Swartz scored a team-leading 22 points, reaching 1,000 career points with a lay-up with three minutes left in the third quarter, as the Ottumwa boys basketball team scored the final 10 points of a CIML cross-division contest with Marshalltown to clinch a 64-51 win over the Bulldogs. After seven games in a row on the road, Ottumwa players were glad to be back home.
"Joe Hammer got our guys up in the locker room," stated Bulldog head coach Neil Hartz, "He made a statement and challenged us to excellence with some critical games coming up and knowing we are in the conference race to capture the Metro division of the CIML."
Swartz scored 14 of his 22 points in the second half, including a shot in the blocks with under two minutes left to put Ottumwa up 56-51. The Ottumwa senior reflected on scoring 1,000 career points, ending the night with 1,009 points in his four years of high school varsity basketball.
"It took a lot of work, and the coaches helped me get there," said Swartz. "Being pushed hard made me better."
The senior is weighing his options in football and basketball for the next level.
The Bulldogs opened the game with an optimal intensity level holding Marshalltown to just seven points in the first quarter. The Bulldogs drew first blood as Adam Greiner hit a lay-up just 30 seconds into the game.
Following two field goals by Marshalltown, Hammer hit consecutive 3-point goals, the first from the left wing then from the left baseline. Swartz also added a 3-pointer as the Bulldogs led 17-7 at the end of the first quarter of play.
The Bobcats leading scorer on the season, Armonniey Thomas, scored five of his total seven points in the first period.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 20-7 lead just 20 seconds into the second frame when Swartz hit a 3-pointer. Matt Graeve also added a trey with 2:27 left in the first half. Marshalltown did outscore Ottumwa in the period to close out the half with the Bulldogs in front 29-20.
The Bobcats would cut the Bulldog lead to just four points midway through the third period on a 3-pointer by Isaiah Borgos. Ottumwa responded with a 3-pointer by Swartz.
The stage was set for a big moment. With Ottumwa leading 37-32, Swartz took a pass in the low post, executed a spin move and converted on a lay-up for his 1,000th point as a Bulldog. Ottumwa would head to the final frame with a 45-33 lead over the Bobcats.
Marshalltown wasn't ready to roll over and play dead as they put 18 points on the board in the final quarter thanks to four 3-point goals. Ottumwa's offense however was ready to answer, putting up 19 points. Holding a narrow 54-51 lead with just 1:20 left, the Bulldogs would proceed to put 10 points on the board in short order with four players joining the final scoring push.
Four Bulldogs finished with double figures in scoring including Swartz with 22, Gatlin Menninga with 16, Greiner with 11 and Hammer with 10 points for the Bulldogs. Marshalltown's leading scorer was Prince Jallah with 21 points.
Ottumwa (8-3, 2-1 CIML Metro) heads to Des Moines Hoover on Friday night. The Huskies (3-1, 2-0 CIML Metro) lead the Metro division by half-a-game over the Bulldogs.
"Hoover will play mostly man defense," noted Hartz. "They have an outstanding sophomore (Chase Henderson)."
Teams 1st 2nd 3rd 4rh Final
Marshalltown 7 13 13 18 51
Ottumwa 17 12 16 19 64