Break up the Bulldogs

Ottumwa senior Josie Lemonds (45) drives to the basket past Burlington teammates Madison Bunton (10) and Lashia Williams on Monday night during high school girls basketball action at Evans Middle School Gymnasium in Ottumwa.

OTTUMWA – On Friday, Joe VandenBerg was ready and waiting to celebrate the first win of the season for the Ottumwa girls basketball team in the locker room.

On Monday, the Bulldogs were ready to return the favor.

VandenBerg was doused by water bottles when he walked into the locker room after walking off the court at Evans Middle School Gymnasium following a 56-30 win over Burlington. It was a reversal of fortune after OHS coaches caught the OHS players walking into the locker room on Friday at the Des Moines Lincoln Roundhouse following a 51-32 win over the Railsplitters.

"As soon as the buzzer went off, Anne (Guest) came up to me and told me had to get to locker room and get ready," Ottumwa senior Chloe Schneckloth said. "We got in there, we got our water bottles and we were going to get him. Coach VandenBerg came in there pretty pumped up. It was just a great celebration."

Ottumwa scored a third straight win on Tuesday, holding Des Moines East to just two points on one field goal in the first half on the way to a 53-18 CIML Metro conference road win. Schneckloth, after scoring 15 points on Monday to lead Ottumwa to the first home win of the season, scored 20 points while making six shots from 3-point territory to lead the Bulldogs against the 0-3 Scarlets.

"Another good win," VandenBerg said of Tuesday's contest at East. "I'm happy with how we distributed the ball. The confidence the girls have is continuing to show."

Overall, VandenBerg can't help but smile, even with a suit half drenched which was soaked again on Tuesday by the Bulldog players after the win at East. After an 0-6 start to the season, Ottumwa has now earned three straight wins.

"I wanted some energy heading into the locker room. The water just adds to that," VandenBerg joked. "I love to see it. The girls are happy. I'm happy. We're playing some good basketball right now."

The Bulldogs played with incredible confidence right from the start as Olivia Coram pulled up and drained a 3-pointer seconds into Ottumwa's first offensive possession. Coram would score all seven of her points in the opening minutes, helping the Bulldogs jump out to a 9-4 lead.

"Playing with confidence. It was one of four keys to win the game on the scouting report," VandenBerg said. "We've been hounding that. Olivia came out and got the first seven points for us. She didn't score the rest of the game. She didn't have to score the rest of the game. She jump-started us."

Schneckloth finished with Coram started, scoring the last seven OHS points of the opening quarter. After driving in for a pair of baskets inside, Schneckloth sank the first of three 3-pointers giving Ottumwa an 18-5 lead.

"I didn't want us to sit back after we got that first win," Schneckloth said. "We need to keep pushing. We practice on that court every day, so winning on that court is pretty special to us."

The Bulldogs kept right rolling on both ends of the court, holding Burlington scoreless for almost seven minutes defensively. Schneckloth found Guest for a lay-up to open the second quarter, then pulled up for a 3-pointer from the top of the key after making four pump fakes to drop the Grayhound defense back.

"I've had many talks with the coaches. They've told me they're going to look to me to score a lot more this season," Schneckloth said. "I've been focusing more on my dribbling and getting the ball to the post, because we're working inside-out, but I just felt like I needed to go all in.

"That's a play we put in on Saturday just to get a shooter open. It kind of gives you confidence when coach says a play is designed for you. When Coach VandenBerg says 'let's run a play for Chloe,' it lets you know he's got confidence in me and that I better put the ball in the hoop."

Schneckloth added four assists and was one of three Bulldogs with a pair of steals as the Bulldogs hounded Burlington into a 10-58 shooting night from the field with just two makes from 3-point range out of 21 attempts. Alexis Standard highlighted the struggles for the winless Grayhounds (0-5), scoring a team-high 11 points while needed 22 shots from the field to hit that mark.

"That's where confidence comes in for us. We know we don't have to rely on one or two players to make a play for us," VandenBerg said. "That comes from the trust the girls are developing in each other. The more confidence we have in each other, the better basketball we're going to play."

Coram added 10 points on Tuesday in Ottumwa's second straight conference road win. Anne Guest followed up an 11-point performance with eight rebounds against Burlington by scoring nine against the Scarlets.

The Bulldogs (3-6, 2-1 CIML Metro) will be back in Des Moines on Friday to face Roosevelt in CIML Metro conference play seeking a fourth straight win.

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

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