BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Lady Bloodhounds have probably one of the toughest brackets in the state in Class 3A action which kicks off Wed., Feb. 15 in Keokuk, while the Holy Trinity girls team gets New London in the first round of Class 1A.
HTC’s girls squad kicks things off Thursday with a matchup against New London, a team the 10-11 Lady Crusaders swept in Southeast Iowa Superconference South action this year.
If HTC gets past the Tigers they would bump up against 14th-rated Burlington Notre Dame and senior guard Johanna Myers who’s 2nd in the state in scoring at 24 points per game only trailing Elle Ruffridge of Pocahontas Area who scores at a 30 ppg clip.
Head Coach Tony Johnson said he hasn’t even really thought about Notre Dame. Ever since the Crusaders gave up 31 points to allow Wapello to come back from an 18-point fourth-quarter deficit, Johnson said his focus has just been on one game.
“I live in the day,” Johnson said. “Honestly I haven’t even looked at the Notre Dame tape. We’ll worry about that on Friday if we win.”
He said New London has the potential to win despite HTC’s success against the Tigers this year, 60-42 on Jan. 3 and 39-37 on Feb. 3.
“It’s so hard to beat the same team three times in a year,” he said. “The biggest thing with New London is we need to contain (Madysen) Wahls. We’ve gotta not let her get going. When we played them last time they had 37 points and I think she had 17 of ’em.”
Wahls is averaging just over 11 points per game this year, but she’s far and away the leader in assists with 131 on the season. The next closest player in the conference is Madison Bartholomew of Van Buren with 98.
Senior Ali Randolph finished 6th in the Southeast Iowa Superconference South in scoring at 12 points per game. Typically scoring off rebounds and turnovers, Randolph is also a pesky defender in transition and press situations. Sophomore Taylor Boeding is 2nd on the team in scoring averaging 9 points a game and shot 31% from the 3-point arc during the regular season. Sophomore Emily Box is at 8 points per game and finished 3rd in the conference in rebounding with 8.5 per game. Randolph finished fourth at 7.4.
Johnson said keeping those key players on the floor is also critical in regional play.
“We’ve got to keep Ali and Emily on the floor. They’ve gotten into foul trouble the last few games.”
Johnson said he thinks whomever comes out of the bottom part of the bracket will probably face Lone Tree for the regional title.
“They were ranked at one point in the season. They’re like us where they’re 1A but play a lot of 2A and 3A schools which shows in their record.”
The Lady Hounds’ bracket features the Nos. 1 and 15 Class 4A ranked teams.
Fort Madison High School’s girls will kick off Class 4A’s region 6 pairings, which may be one of the toughest early round brackets in the state, with a tough matchup against Keokuk who was ranked in the top 20 several times this year. Also in the same region bracket are 15th-ranked Fairfield and top-ranked Marion who’s only lost one game this year.
Head Coach Charlie Knipe said he’s still trying to improve each day in practice and despite his team’s 5-15 regular season record, his girls have something to prove. The Bloodhounds still have one regular season game remaining at Fairfield Tuesday night.
Junior Amber Dilsaver and senior Mercedes Trimble lead Fort Madison in scoring at 12.4 and 10.1 points per game, respectively. Dilsaver stands at 4th in the conference in scoring as well as 2nd in the conference in rebounding at 7.8 boards per outing and Trimble is 5th at six boards per game. Trimble also leads the Southeast conference in 3-point proficiency at 48.3% among players with more than 50 attempts.
“We can’t worry about (the record),” Knipe said. “The girls need to go out, play and have fun. And if they have fun, we have a better chance. I have to get a great game out of Amber and Mercedes, and Taylor Shannon has to take care of the ball. If we get those, we got a shot at something, but if we break down in any of those we’ll have a long night.”
Fort Madison lost to Keokuk in both meetings this year, 62-28 on Dec. 2 and 57-20 on Jan. 13. Knipe said that despite the lopsided scores if the Hounds can limit turnovers they can play with most teams in the conference.
“No. 1 we have to be patient and very disciplined to not give the ball away. We avg. 30 turnovers a game,” he said. “If we could cut that down to 20 we’re in the ball game with most of them. If I remember correct we had nine turnovers just getting the ball in bounds. Once we get the ball into our court we can compete with their speed and size.”