By CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – It was long distance night at Holy Trinity Catholic High School Friday night 3 pointers rained in from all sides of the gym.
The Bloodhounds benefited from some timely long-range baskets and a poor shooting performance from a senior dominated Crusader squad that came off a hard-fought game at Waco on Thursday night to down the home team 57-44
Fort Madison started out on a 10-0 first quarter run behind 5 points from Junior Kaleb Cresswell, including one of his 5 3-pointers on the evening.
“We knew Cresswell was a shooter and we just didn’t identify him very well tonight,” said HTC head coach John Hellige.
Cresswell lead all scorers with 19 points.
The teams then traded buckets most of the way through the first period when, with just a minute left, HTC Senior Connor Conrad nailed a three-pointer to bring the Crusaders to within 7 points at 11-18. Two more traded transition buckets had the Bloodhounds on top 20-13 at the end of the first quarter. But it was clear to the Crusader fans, players and coaches that there seemed to be a bit of a lid on the bucket for the home team.
“I don’t know… last night we played at WACO, we played really hard and and a starters played a lot of minutes and I don’t know if that effected our legs a lot,” Hellige said.
The Bloodhounds extended the lead to 25-15 on nifty interior pass from Cresswell to Junior Elijah Barnes for an easy bucket and then on the next trip down the floor, Cresswell hit another three to put the Hounds up by 13. The Crusaders cut into the lead just before halftime for 19-30 deficit.
“We work a lot on our outside shooting and we take pride in that and that’s one of the strengths of our team. We’re a smaller team so we need to do those types of things,” said Fort Madison Head Coach Ryan Wilson.
Wilson said when Cresswell and Senior CJ Richardson are both having good shooting nights it causes defensive problems for the other teams.
“Cj struggled a bit tonight and he needs to knock those down. Between CJ and Caleb they’ll shoot 50 to 100 3s a night at practice but we need to find a way to get CJ more shots,”
Cresswell said after the game that outside shooting has always been a strong part of the Bloodhounds scheme.
“We’ve gotten a lot better at it,” he said. “Everyone on the team can shoot. It really helps us when people start face guarding so it makes it easier to drive by and dish the ball off.”
The second half highlighted the shooting woes for the Crusaders as they managed just four points in the quarter while the Bloodhounds put up nine to extend the lead to 39-23.
Senior Cory Hopper, who was getting most of the good lucks off penetration and 3 pointers could seem to find his range in the third quarter to help the Crusaders get back in the game.
“Corey is a great leader and player for us…a tremendous scorer and sometimes the ball just doesn’t go in,” Hellige said.
Hopper finished with 17 points including three 3-pointers.
Fort Madison’s Treavor Kokjohn helped the Bloodhound effort in the third with a nice inside move in the paint, converted a bucket and was fouled. He didn’t convert the free throw but helped FM to 37-21 lead.
“Treavor Kokjohn has been phenomenal for us this week, I think he almost had his third triple double tonight. He’s been a machine for us…rebounding, knocking down shots and he’s one of those kids that can step out and shoot the three,” Wilson said.
Kokjohn finished the night with nine points just missing the triple double, but nailed two three-pointers in the process.
The Crusaders couldn’t get any closer than a dozen points the rest of the way, despite a late-game press slapped on the Hounds in the final two minutes that seemed to shake up the visitors.
“Playing back-to-back nights I was a little apprehensive about putting the press on too much,” Hellige said.
But he indicated he was proud of the defense that showed up on an otherwise poor offensive night.
“I loved our effort defensively. We switched to zone and I thought the kids really battled hard,” he said. “We knew Fort Madison had some size and weight for us and we knew they could shoot outside.”
“The positives are we were in the game late. Despite a horrendous offensive night and us being able to play this style of play.”
Rounding out the scoring for HTC, Conrad had 15 as the only other player in double figures. Senior Bailey Merschman had 7 and fellow senior Connor Hellweg added 4 and freshman Matt Hellige added a free throw. The Crusaders fall to 3-1 on the season and entertain Van Buren on Tuesday Dec. 6 following the girls varsity tilt.
For Fort Madison, Richardson chimed in with 11 points, Senior Austin Rose added 9, Sophomore Logan Rashid added two buckets, Senior Landon Bentley had 3 points and Junior Elijah Barnes contributed a bucket.
Wilson said his 3-0 team is probably playing at a good level but not as good as they can play considering they too are coming off a win Friday night in Keokuk.
“Have we played as good as I think we can, no, there’s always room for improvement,” Wilson said. “We want to be playing good basketball now, but we want to playing our best basketball in February.”
“We’ll have nine games in the next three weeks which will be half our schedule. That’s when will know where we’re at but we’ve got a quit fouling. We play with our hands and not our feet. We get stupid fouls. They get a rebound under the basket and we have no business just slapping at it. The Mount Pleasants and the Fairfields they’re not going to let us get away with that.”