MOUNT PLEASANT — The week was already shaping up to be a challenging one for the Ottumwa High School girls basketball team.
The Bulldogs didn’t have plans to make it tougher, but Mount Pleasant did.
The Panthers rallied from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter, and Tristian Shull’s three-point play with eight seconds left was the difference as the Panthers held on for a 51-50 nonconference win Monday
With Class 5A ninth-ranked Urbandale (today), CIML Metro leader Des Moines Roosevelt Friday, and the regional pairings scheduled to come out this week as well, it was a chance for the Bulldogs (12-7) to improve their resume.
“You need every game, not just one here or there,” Ottumwa coach Joe VandenBerg said. “You want to try to get some momentum for the postseason.”
The Bulldogs controlled most of the game against the Panthers (6-14), who’d lost six of seven entering play and lost by 13 to Ottumwa the second game of the year. But the Bulldogs couldn’t put them away when they had the chance, and Mount Pleasant pecked away at its deficit by holding Ottumwa to just three points in a six-minute span of the fourth quarter.
A clutch 3-pointer by Lydia Stewart tied the game at 43, then the teams were tied again at 45 until Emma Huckabone finished off a press-break with a layup.
After Grace Bookin-Nosbisch tied the game at 47 with 16 seconds left, the Panthers played for the last shot, and Shull’s runner and ensuing free throw made it 50-47.
Shull added another free throw after the Bulldogs turned the ball over, but Bookin-Nosbisch was then fouled on a 3-point attempt with 1.3 seconds left. She made all of them, but the Bulldogs couldn’t get a final look after a missed free throw at the other end.
“We gave up too many offensive rebounds. It was a physical game and they let us play,” VandenBerg said. “I thought we did a pretty good job defensively, but we got caught on a couple rotations and gave them some open shots.”
The Bulldogs started strong by attacking the lane with their athleticism. Still, the Panthers didn’t go away despite the Bulldogs’ tough defense in the paint.
After Stewart hit a three to tie the game at 17 early in the second quarter, the Bulldogs went on a 9-2 run, capped off by a Kaylee Bix three to go up 26-19. Ottumwa led 28-21 at the break.
“Toward the end of the first half I could see we were getting away from going to the rim and started settling for outside shots,” VandenBerg said. “There were a couple calls that didn’t go our way, and then we didn’t attack again. It was just the flow of the game.”
Ottumwa led 40-30 with under two minutes left in the third quarter when Bix drove through defenders for a layup, but the Panthers had a 12-2 run to start the fourth that eventually paved the way for their win.
“Mount Pleasant is improved for sure. They found their hot shooters,” VandenBerg said. “They made the plays at the right time.”
Bix led all scorers with 14 points as four Bulldogs scored in double figures; Grace Bookin-Nosbisch added 12, Kacy Nickerson 11 and Alli Bookin-Nosbisch 10.
Stewart scored 13 for the Panthers, while freshman Andrea Lopreato added 10.