The Ottumwa girls road to what it hopes will be a state tournament berth to the Class 5A state basketball tournament starts today when they take on Burlington in the regional quarterfinals of substate.
This could be a winnable game for the Bulldogs — The Grayhounds sport an unspectacular 9-11 record.
If Ottumwa brings its trademark pesky defense combined with a potent inside-outside offensive attack it will have a real good chance to pick up the road win.
“We need to shoot the ball at a higher percentage,” Ottumwa coach Kevin Patterson said. “If we shoot the ball well tomorrow night we are going to have a very good chance of winning the game.”
The Bulldogs (4-17, 3-9) have received offensive contributions from an assortment of characters this season. While Olivia Roark has been Ottumwa’s steadiest performer — she leads the Bulldogs with 7.3 points per game — other Bulldogs such as Hayli Beeson, Sydney Strunk, Carissa Hite, Megan Black and Alexis Winn have all played important roles in the success the team has enjoyed this season.
Ottumwa’s defense has been consistently strong, as the Bulldogs have sometimes had to employ especially tough defense to counteract their offensive shortcomings. Roark and Black, who ranks second on the team in scoring with 5.6 points a game, have been at the forefront of Ottumwa’s defensive achievements. Roark leads the Bulldogs with 46 steals and Black has swatted a team-best 12 shots. Rachel Zingg also has shown an aptitude for blocking shots.
The Bulldogs have at times suffered from a dearth of scoring, as an inability to make high-percentage shots has hurt Ottumwa in some games. Yet, when the girls get in a good flow on offense, they have shown themselves to be capable of reeling off points. Roark and Beeson are the teams most proficient 3-point shooters — Beeson has really found her stroke towards the end of the season. In addition, Roark knows how to finish in transition and she also can score on drives down the lane. Black and Strunk are capable of scoring on dribble-drives from the wing or baseline and drilling mid-range jumpers.
Alexis Winn has some effective moves inside the paint and Carissa Hite has really improved her post game as the season has progressed.
The Bulldogs pesky defense will look to lock down the Grayhounds’ Kelsi Conner, who averages a team-high 14 points.
“We have to stay between her and the basket,” Patterson said, “and we must prevent her from her getting to the hoop because she’s very good at finishing near the basket.”
Burlington’s No. 2 option on offense is Courtney Carl, who averages 9.3 points a game. Carl, however, is far from just a scoring threat. The senior Grayhound also leads her team with 52 assists and 49 steals on the year. Kya Kimsey is Burlington’s prime 3-point threat; as she leads the Grayhounds with 29 3-pointers. Conner and Marissa McCann leads the Grayhounds with 4.6 points a game.
Ottumwa has suffered its share of growing pangs during this season, but the girls have consistently exerted tremendous effort while picking up some wins along the way. If the girls can string together four quarters of solid basketball, they may just live to fight another day.
The Bulldogs will play Saturday against fifth-ranked (Class 5A) Muscatine (18-3) on the Muskies’ home court if they are victorious today. And if they upset Muscatine, they will play for a state tournament berth Tuesday against either Davenport West or Pleasant Valley at Bettendorf.