BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
KEOKUK – The Fort Madison Bloodhounds were physically in the game for about four minutes Wednesday night, but the heart of the team perservered until the end.
The Keokuk Chiefs ran over the Bloodhounds in Wednesday Class 4A Region 6 action 67-30 to end the season for Fort Madison. Keokuk moves on to face Fairfield, a team they’ve lost to two times, once in OT.
Keokuk, who over three games averaged a 35-point win over Fort Madison, lived up the hype pinning and pressuring the Hounds into a night of trouble getting the ball over the timeline to set up their half court offense.
The Hounds didn’t have a single player in double figures as Amber Dilsaver and Mercedes Trimble, the teams leading scorers, were held in check. Dilsaver got into foul trouble in the first quarter and had to ride the bench for the whole second period. Trimble was relegated to breaking the press off the dribble and couldn’t get set into the offense with Keokuk’s intense pressure.
Fort Madison jumped out to a quick 6-3 lead just three minutes into the game scoring off the man-to-man press that Trimble navigated easily. She found Brittiney Harris in the lane for a quick bucket, then Mariah Trimble converted a couple free throws on a foul inside and Mercedes followed with a bucket on a drive.
Keokuk senior Skylar Johnson converted after 4:22 left in the first to put the Chiefs up 8-6, but Fort Madison’s Harris scored two quick buckets in the transition off the man-to-man press.
Keokuk realized the man-to-man wasn’t going to hinder the Hounds, so head coach Mike Davis transitioned to a trapping zone press off the inbounds and that move almost in itself won the game as the Hounds struggled to handle the pressure. The Chiefs went on a 7-0 run to take a 17-10 lead with 1:46 left in the game and the Hounds never figured out the pressure and that was a close as they would get with the Chiefs leading 21-12 at the end of one.
Fort Madison would only convert one free throw in the 2nd quarter as Keokuk raced to a 38-13 halftime lead. Mackenzie Pezley converted a 3-pointer to open the third, but Dilsaver found the inside a bit easier going and converted the Hounds’ first bucket since the first quarter with three minutes gone in the 3rd period. A Harris bucket after that closed the gap to 44-19, but Keokuk junior Michaela Davis then hit three consecutive buckets to dash any fading hopes the Bloodhounds had for a rally. Davis led all scorers with 23 points on the night, after averaging 12 on the season.
Harris and Dilsaver each had eight to lead Fort Madison. Mariah Trimble had 7. Kamryn Bailey and Mercedes Trimble each had three and sophomore Jassmine Bass added a point.
Knipe had nothing but emotion and well-wishes for his seniors, the Trimble sisters, Harris and Emily Mitchell.
“Class acts…all four of them. As of right now, three of them will probably go onto play college,” Knipe said. “They’ve set a tone that hopefully we can build on and they will always be welcome here. They’ve worked hard all season and I can’t say anything bad about any of them.”
Knipe said Mercedes was asked to take on a different role than he had planned for her at the beginning of the season.
“She did a great job for us all year. I think that she probably would have preferred to play the No. 3 spot, but we didn’t have a ball handler and she just assumed that role and was a leader.”
Knipe said the Lady Hounds just couldn’t figure out Keokuk’s pressure and then got into a hole and lost focus.
“We just weren’t a mentally strong team. Mercedes is probably the strongest in that respect. Taylor got into foul trouble, we had to sub and that caused us trouble. Amber had to come out with a couple of fouls and some fatigue,” he said. “We gave up three or four buckets in a row, we turned the ball over… and we’re down by eight, and then it just went downhill from there. And we had to sit Amber and Taylor the whole second quarter.”
Keokuk was a tall mountain to climb but Knipe said the pressure was just too much to overcome.
“We knew they were going to be stronger and their pressure is just crazy. I take my hat off to (Davis) his team bought into the pressure. And the one year that we don’t have any guards it makes a huge difference.”