BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – In a curtain call of sorts, the Fort Madison High School boys basketball team seniors gave Head Coach Ryan Wilson something he hasn’t be able to get all year.
A win vs. a non-Iowa team.
The Bloodhounds erased a six-point first quarter deficit and sent Illini West home with a 74-55 loss.
Fort Madison finishes the regular season at 14-7, but was 0-for-Illinois and Missouri until Monday night. The Hounds had fallen to Illinois’ West Hancock, Unity and Pittsfield and Clark County, Missouri. But Wilson wasn’t thinking of streaks, but had his mind on his senior players.
“These are great kids. They bust their tail every night. They come ready to play…they lead by example.. they’re gonna be missed,” Wilson said.
“CJ (Richardson) has been playing for three years now. He’s a great leader and a great point guard. Austin (Rose) has come a long way and has worked hard on his game this year and Landon (Bentley)…he’s relentless. He just keeps going and going and going. Loves the game. They played hard tonight – played well with a lot of energy and we’re gonna need that Monday night.”
The Bloodhounds kick off district action Monday night in Mt. Pleasant against an almost mirror team in Chariton who stands at 14-6 with one game remaining against Oskaloosa on Tuesday.
Fort Madison raced to an 8-2 lead Monday night paced by 3-pointers from Treavor Kokjohn and Kaleb Cresswell and coupla freebies from Logan Rashid. But Illini West’s Jackson Porter pulled out his bag of tricks early and threw up three 3-pointers and added a free throw all in a two-minute span to single-handedly pull the Chargers ahead 11-8 with about two minutes left in the quarter. They also held the Hounds scoreless from the 4:37 mark in the quarter until Cresswell converted on a drive with a minute left in the period.
With about three seconds left in the quarter, West’s Jacob Bryan squared up from the right side and threw up a 3-pointer that was tipped by Richardson. Richardson was called for the foul which concerned Wilson just a bit. Bryan converted all three free throws with virtually no time left to push the Chargers’ lead to 16-10.
The 2nd quarter the Hounds’ turned to their defense and they were able to go on a 5-0 run to start the period, highlighted by sophomore Logan Rashid’s 3-pointer and a bucket to cut the lead to 15-16. Porter countered dialing up another long-distance call to push the lead to 15-19.
Then Kokjohn took his turn to push the Chargers back converting two free throws and another bucket on Fort Madison’s next possession to tie the game at 19. The rest of the quarter was a 3-point shootout with West’s Kennedy Gooding and Bryan each putting up a trey and the Hounds got one from Rose who stepped to the top of the key and buried one followed by a couple of Bentley freebies and a Creswell 3-pointer to give Fort Madison its first lead since midway through the first period 29- 27 at the half.
The momentum continued into the third period as the Hounds pushed the lead to six at 35-29 on back-to-back Cresswell bombs. Buckets by Bentley and Richardson pushed the lead to 10 and the Hounds were off to the races culminating with a 13-3 run capped by a Richardson trey.
The Chargers never got back into the game going down by as much as 22 in the fourth although they connected on five 3-pointers, three from Aden Trout and two from Jonah Burt. The Hounds only converted one three pointer as Wilson directed his team to start working the ball and finding open driving lanes to work the clock.
Richardson said the crowd was a huge part of the game.
“The energy the crowd brought to the game really was really appreciated. It helped us step it up, especially defensively because that’s when you need the extra energy,” he said.
Rose said the last time playing at home in front of the student body and fans helped him as well.
“Oh yeah, I mean when we started in warm ups I was feeling it. I know all the seniors were, too. It was our last ride here.”
Wilson said he didn’t really expect to win by that margin, but knew his team had the potential to play that well.
“You never expect to win by 20. But when the kids play like they are capable of…like they are coached to play, it can happen,” Wilson said. “Tonight they played hard and good things happened. You don’t expect that kind of margin but it’s nice when it happens.”
“I was looking at the half, we had two guys at 7 one guy at 8. If we want to be successful in the postseason and they want to have a chance to beat Chariton and Mt. Pleasant..we have to share it. It has to be “we” and not “me.” They played with energy… with heart… with emotion and it’s gotta be that way for districts. We have to have that Monday against Chariton and if all goes well and we win Monday we’ll need it on Thursday if we get to Mt. Pleasant. Mt. Pleasant has thumped us a couple times and they’re going to expect to thump us again if that matchup happens. But we’ll be alright. They just have to play the way they’re coached to play.”
Rounding out the scoring for the Hounds was Cresswell with 17, Richardson with 15, Kokjohn had 14, Bentley had 9, Rashid chipped in with 7, Rose and Shance Redd-Donald each had five and Lorenzo Riles added two.