BY CHUCK VANDENBERG – EDITOR
BURLINGTON – Fort Madison Head Coach Ryan Wilson has been looking to strike a balance with his team all year…a balance of offense and defense, scoring and rebounding, inside and outside games. Balance, he says, leads to opportunities.
On Saturday night Senior guard CJ Richardson and junior guard Kaleb Cresswell took turns keeping Fort Madison on top of host Burlington Notre Dame as the Hounds never trailed en route to a 54-44 win at Notre Dame.
Richardson scored all his 13 points in the first half, including seven in the first six minutes to help push the Hounds to a 15-8 first quarter lead. Junior Elijah Barnes added a bucket and sophomore Logan Rashid hit a three pointer in the period as well. Notre Dame got six of their eight from junior Jett Tjaden who tied for game-high scoring for the Nikes at 13 with senior Jack Giannettino.
The Hounds played almost half the first quarter and most of the second without junior forward Treavor James-Kokjohn who got into foul trouble early with two.
Senior Austin Rose took over in the middle and scored out of the gate in the 2nd period to put the Hounds up 17-8. Richardson then hit consecutive 3s to push the Hounds lead to 23-10. The two teams traded buckets for the next three minutes and then it was Cresswell’s turn to help keep the balance. Cresswell hit a layup at the 4:25 mark to give the Hounds a 27-12 advantage and then connected on a three of his own with 1:40 left in the half, with James-Kokjohn still on the bench.
“We were in foul trouble early between Treavor, Barnes and Landon Bentley so we had to go a bit deeper on the bench,” Wilson said after the game.
CJ had 13 in the first half. He really stepped up and played well and played well for us last night. He’s coming along. We need people like that to step in and fill the void.”
As for the foul trouble, James-Kokjohn said he had to play smarter.
“He (coach) wants me to play smart. Coach wants me to be like a big spark. He says were gonna go as far as I take the team,” he said.
Kokjohn came out in the second half with renewed intensity and helped control the inside game before fouling out in the fourth quarter. He finished with 11 points.
Cresswell, who led all scorers on the night with 16 started the 2nd half on fire for the Hounds hitting three 3-pointers in the first four minutes, but the Nikes’ Giannettino scored six points in the same span to keep the lead at 14.
A 3-pointer from Bentley with 40 seconds left in the third period proved to be a dagger for the Hounds as they went into the final period with a commanding 45-28 lead and the Hounds would need most of that cushion as Notre Dame outscored Fort Madison 15-9 in the last period.
James-Kokjohn took over in the last quarter scoring 9 of his 11 in the last 7 minutes.
“I gotta bring the energy every night. I gotta score points, I gotta get rebounds, that’s my role.”
Wilson said the Hounds came out with energy and that was a nice change.
“We came out and played hard, that’s been an issue for us. We played good defense. Our defense leads to easy buckets,” he said.
But the balance is still on his mind as Wilson said he’d like to see more production inside the paint.
“I’d love to get them more touches. Now, how hard are they working and are our guards finding them and seeing them when they’re open. That’s probably debatable,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that the inside game opens up the outside game. We have kids that can score we just need to get the ball where it needs to be.”
Rounding out the scoring for Fort Madison, Rashid had 5 points, Barnes had 4, Bentley had 3, and Rose had 2.
The Hounds are 4-2 on the season and take on a Danville team ranked 9th in Class 1A on Tuesday with junior varsity action kicking off at 6 p.m.