In a season where just getting on the court is a victory all by itself, the Ottumwa boys basketball team wasn’t worried about style points in its season opener. The Bulldogs simply found a way to get the job done.
Ottumwa held off a late rally by Grand View Christian Tuesday night, earning a 57-50 victory at Evans Middle School. OHS started out the campaign 1-0, while the Thunder dropped to 1-1.
As expected, Trae Swartz led the way for the Bulldogs. The senior, who was second in scoring last season in Class 4A, opened his senior year with a 30-point performance. Swartz did much of his damage in the second and third quarters, totaling 19 points in the two stanzas as Ottumwa opened a double-digit lead.
Grand View Christian, a Class 1A school which won state championships in 2017, 2018 and 2019, never backed down from the challenge of playing a 4A school. Junior guard Josh Baucum led the Thunder with 19 points, 12 of which came in the fourth quarter as they tried to rally from a 17-point deficit. Daniel Tobiloba, a six-foot-eleven sophomore, added 13 points, ten in the second half. Tobiloba’s inside presence on defense also made Ottumwa reluctant to attack the basket, blocking or altering multiple shots throughout the contest.
The Bulldogs countered with outside shooting, hitting ten three-pointers on the night, seven of which came from Swartz. Senior guard Joe Hammer, normally a three-point specialist, only made one in the game but still contributed nine points. Junior Armani Robinson scored seven in his first career start, and fellow junior Adam Greiner added six points.
Ottumwa also did a good job of slowing down GVC’s Manny Hammonds. The junior had totaled 32 points the night before in a win at Albia, but OHS held him to just four points on Tuesday. The Bulldogs kept the Thunder to just 28 points through three quarters, but Grand View Christian launched a furious rally in the final stanza. They got as close as five points in the final minutes before Ottumwa was able to put the game away.
Neither team shot well from the free throw line. Grand View Christian ended the night just 4-of-11 from the charity stripe. Ottumwa missed its first five free throws and 7-for-14, but did make seven free throws in a row in the fourth quarter to keep the Thunder at bay.
The Bulldogs return to action next Tuesday night, December 8th, when they host Mount Pleasant. The Ottumwa girls basketball team opens its season at Mount Pleasant the same night, and Ottumwa Radio will broadcast the girls game.