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Boys basketball: Welcome to the Bryan Coulter Show!

Feb. 2—CENTERVILLE — The Bryan Coulter game.

It's the latest chapter in the special story that is being written this season by the Ottumwa High School boys basketball team.

Coulter scored a career-high 10 points on Thursday night, reaching double figures for the first time in his career in a memorable way. Leading 58-56 inside the final minute at Centerville, Coulter scored on a putback off a missed 3-pointer by Nehemiah Wolfing with 12 seconds left, securing a thrilling 60-56 win over the Big Reds at Lakeview Gymnasium.

"I just knew we had to get a bucket and go play hard defense," Coulter said. "It feels great to be on a winning streak like this. This is the most fun I've had all year. This team is great. It's great chemistry. I just love it."

It was Ottumwa's fourth straight win in the span of six days, including three straight road wins in a four-day span. The Bulldogs were coming off a gutsy 69-68 win in double overtime just two nights earlier at Marshalltown as Ottumwa overcame a five-point deficit and a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Treshaun Brooks in the first overtime to keep their winning streak in tact behind 47 combined points from Trae Brown and Rahsha Pope.

"At this point and time, it's all about the heart and the toughness that we figured out earlier in the season," Ottumwa head boys basketball coach Neil Hartz said. "We have that 'don't die' attitude. It seems like every night, we have one guy step up to do something that wasn't expected. Nehemiah had a big night at Des Moines East on Monday. Trae and Rahsha were big for us on Tuesday at Marshalltown.

"This was the Bryan Coulter show. He played his tail off for us and we needed it."

Ottumwa's depth was once again needed to pull out another tough win. Coming off a 25-point effort on Tuesday at Marshalltown, Brown again led the Bulldogs on Thursday at Centerville with 20 points but did so despite picking up his fourth foul with just over two minutes left in the third quarter.

With Brown on the bench, Centerville continued to rally from a 38-30 deficit. The Big Reds scored nine straight points while the Bulldogs searched for answers as seven offensive rebounds aided a run that lifted Centerville to a 42-40 lead on a go-ahead lay-up by Conner Stephens with just over a minute left in the period.

"We just have a lot of grit. I say it time and time again. Our team just gets after it," Centerville head boys basketball coach Tyler Baze said. "There were a lot of times that we could have packed it in. When they got up 38-30, it felt like they were starting to pull away. That was a moment where we needed to step up or we were going to get blown out."

With Centerville on a run and their leading scorer on the bench, Ottumwa was able to regain the lead as Chase Thompson hit a pair of game-tying free throws before Coulter found Pope off Javen Rominger's second block of the quarter, giving Ottumwa a 44-42 lead heading into the fourth. The teams continued to battle back and forth through a dramatic final period with OHS maintaining the lead trading basket for basket heading into the final minutes.

Malachi Rice led Centerville with a game-high 21 points, playing for the second straight game without his brother. K.J. Rice suffered a season-ending foot injury last Friday in a close home loss to South Central Conference co-leader Clarke.

"When we first lost K.J., there were a lot of question marks," Baze said. "Drennan Moorman has stepped up in a big way for us. It stinks to lose K.J., but if I can get three to four more points from every starter and a little bit more energy on defense, that'll narrow the gap."

Rice followed up a fadeaway jumper with a pair of free throws, bringing Centerville within 54-53 of Ottumwa with 1:42 left. Coulter found Pope and Brown inside to answer the scores by Rice, allowing Ottumwa to maintain a three-point lead before Brown scored off a steal with just over a minute left, giving the Bulldogs a 58-53 lead.

Centerville, however, would not go away. Ryan Sinnott collected his 14th of a game-high 15 rebounds off a missed shot by Rice, kicking the ball back out to Stephens for a clutch 3-pointer that cut Ottumwa's lead back down to 58-56 with 46.6 seconds left.

Needing one stop to have a chance to tie or to possibly win the game, the Big Reds got a missed shot as Wolfing's 3-pointer with the shot clocking winding down struck the iron and bounced away. Daniel George narrowly missed collecting his 10th rebound as Coulter found the ball and put a shot back up that rolled in, ultimately clinching the game as 3-pointers by Stephens and Rice failed to fall for Centerville in the final seconds.

"I've surprised myself with the improvements I've made over the past couple of years," Coulter said. "My coaches have helped me out a lot. I'm there to back up anybody on the court that needs a break. I knew there would be a lot of playing time in the future, so I was patient and waited for my opportunity."

Pope finished with 15 points and a game-high eight assists while Brown led Ottumwa with seven rebounds and four steals. Stephens finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and seven assists while George narrowly missed out on a double-double scoring 10 points while hauling in nine boards as both players were honored prior to the game as part of Centerville's Senior Night ceremonies.

After wrapping up a busy week away from home on Friday at Des Moines Roosevelt, Ottumwa (10-4) returns home on Monday to host Mount Pleasant. Centerville (10-8) will also be at home on Monday hosting Sigourney.

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