OTTUMWA — Since they’ve been a part of the Ottumwa High School girls basketball program, the 2020 class of seniors never experienced a losing season.
That fact was cemented on Friday night, a night decided to the eight senior members of the Bulldog girls basketball team. Katie Nelson, Kaylee Bix, Kacy Nickerson, Macy Duff, Nataly Jaimes all started while twin sisters Alli and Grace Bookin-Nosbisch checked in together early, giving all seven senior players time on the court in the opening quarter of a 71-40 CIML Metro Conference win over Des Moines East.
Alli and Grace Bookin-Nosbisch finished as the top scorers for OHS. Alli had 17 points, one of three OHS seniors to reach double figures in points, while Grace had 14 points and a team-leading nine rebounds. Kacy Nickerson, the youngest of three sisters to play basketball at Ottumwa, finished with 13 points and a pair of steals.
“It’s really cool being that it’s one of our last times playing on this court to go out with a bang and help leave a mark on Ottumwa together,” Alli Bookin-Nosbisch said. “We have been playing together since second grade. It’s an end to something we’ve put a lot of work into. I’m glad I could do it with all my teammates and all of my best friends.”
The seven senior players (Madison Brandt was also honored as Ottumwa’s lone senior team manager) combined for 60 of Ottumwa’s 71 points on Friday night. The seniors also had 31 of Ottumwa’s 40 rebounds, 13 of the 16 assists, eight of the team’s 12 steals and three of the team’s four blocked shots.
“I don’t think that it’s really hit me yet that this is one of our last games at home,” Grace Bookin-Nosbisch said. “It’ll probably hit me when we get into the postseason. For now, we’re going to keep working hard and doing what we need to do.”
Ottumwa (12-6, 7-2 CIML Metro) stymied the Scarlets early, forcing 10 turnovers and 10 missed shots in the opening seven minutes. Lyric Sellers, who would go on to score a game-high 22 points, finally produced the only field goal of the opening quarter for East in the closing seconds as OHS built a 16-4 lead.
Ottumwa continued to stretch out the lead in the second quarter, outscoring the Scarlets 24-11 to build a 40-15 lead. The Bulldogs were just a point shy by the half of their entire game total in the first matchup with East, a 41-30 win in which OHS had to overcome a scoreless second quarter.
“I don’t think we were very satisfied with how we played the first time against East,” Grace Bookin-Nosbisch said. “We came out with a vengeance. We wanted to show them what we can really do when we work together as a team.”
Swellers and Rachel Puok combined for 32 points for East, helping the Scarlets get as close as 54-35 early in the fourth quarter. Katie Nelson and Grace Bookin-Nosbisch helped Ottumwa seal the victory combining for 13 of Ottumwa’s 18 points in the final period.
“As of right now, this senior class is 52-31. I went back a few years to look it up and it’s one of the most successful senior classes we’ve had in a long time,” Ottumwa head girls basketball coach Joe VandenBerg said. “It’s not just this group. There are girls that have come before them that have done their part for the program, but the success of this senior-led group has been really great.”
Ottumwa returns to action at Mount Pleasant on Monday before returning home to host Urbandale on Tuesday. The Bulldogs wrap up the regular season next Friday night at Des Moines Roosevelt before opening Class 5A regional tournament play the following week.
“We’ve all been really close friends since second grade. It really helps on the court knowing where each other is and where everyone is going to be,” Nickerson said. “We’re all very competitive. When we go out on the floor, our mindset is we’re going to win this game. We just have to take it one step at a time, one game at a time with one goal to win games.”