BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MT. PLEASANT – Treavor Kokjohn picked up a loose ball in a scrum with eight seconds left and hugged it with both arms waiting to get fouled. He was…and that all but sealed the deal for the Bloodhounds.
Fort Madison held on for a 52-48 win over Chariton in District 11 regional action Monday night in Mt. Pleasant behind 18 points from Kokjohn. The Hounds had two other players in double figures with CJ Richardson at 12 and Kaleb Creswell at 10. Fort Madison has only lost one game this year when three players scored in double figures and that was to Pittsfield back on February 4th.
The Chargers jumped out to a one point lead at the end of the first quarter when senior Lim Chuol hit inside with a few seconds left to put Chariton ahead. That quarter belonged to Kokjohn for Fort Madison who scored 7 of the first 10 points. Cresswell had a three pointer to tie the game at 5-5 with 5:49 left in the quarter. After Kokjohn missed two free throws on the next possession, Chuol again scored inside to put Chariton up by a bucket, then Kokjohn connected on one of his two 3-pointers on the night and then followed that up with a nice move inside.
The Chargers Nathan Weaver went to the line 6 times in that stretch but only connected on three to keep the game within one point.
Chuol was averaging 17 points per game coming into the contest and Kokjohn was tasked with keeping him in check most of the night.
“Coach told us to play a lot of help defense,” Kokjohn said after the game holding Chuol to just 13. “He was 2 for 20 on 3s so we played off him and just played a lot of help defense.”
Head Coach Ryan Wilson confirmed that was the strategy.
“Our philosophy was to let him shoot from outside and help out inside. I thought we did a really good job on him tonight.”
The second quarter saw the Hounds warm up from outside. With Landon Bentley, Richardson and Austin Rose all hitting from 3-point land on a 9-1 run that put the Hounds up 19-13 with 3:20 left in the half. Weaver and Chuol answered for the Chargers and Chuol hit a couple of freebies to knot the game up at 19 with a 6-0 run, but Richardson cooled them off with a drive in the final seconds. A heave from Weaver at the buzzer clanked off the backboard.
Richardson started the third with a 3-pointer to push the lead but Chuol again scored with sweeping moves across the lane, where most of his points came from. Kokjohn converted a couple free throws after being fouled inside and Rose added a bucket to give the Hounds a 28-23 advantage. Chariton answered with a 3-pointer from Isaiah Tuigong. The Hounds forcing the pace in the third found Kokjohn again on the right side for a driving layup, but Dylan Stites hit on a three the next trip down for Chariton to close the gap to one at 30-29.
The Hounds Landon Bentley came off the bench and hit a running 8-footer to put the Hounds back up by 3 and the defense held on Chariton’s next possession. Off a rebound the Hounds got into their half-court offense and after a couple perimeter passes, Kokjohn pulled up outside the arc again and connected to push the lead to six. Riley Walters countered for the Chargers but that would be the last points they would score in the quarter, while Cresswell scored on a pullup jumper in the center of the lane, Richardson scored off a steal and Lorenzo Riles capped the quarter with two free throws to give the Hounds a 10 point cushion going into the final period 41-31.
Chariton has been most productive in the fourth quarter this year, putting up 330 points, about 20 more than any other period and they tried to use that to their advantage Monday night.
Kokjohn started the scoring with a bucket inside, but Stites countered with a three pointer at the other end. Fort Madison couldn’t convert on their end and then fouled Nathan Weaver in transition. Weaver only made the second of two foul shots and Cresswell hit a jumper for the Hounds to put the game back at 10. Kobey Riechmann then heated up and single handedly brought the Chargers back with a bucket on a drive, countered by a Creswell 3-pointer and then Riechmann scored six unanswered on two 3-pointers to pull the Chargers with 48-43. Tuigong then converted a bucket for an 8-0 run that wasn’t quashed until Kokjohn converted a free throw to make it 49-45.
Chuol then answered on the next drive with a bucket and was fouled converting the free throw to close the gap to 49-48 with less than 1:15 left in the game. The Hounds brought the ball across the floor and were able to work the clock down to eight seconds when Richardson was fouled. He converted both to push the lead to three and Chariton called a time out to set up a play. On the inbounds, the Hounds gave just enough pressure to force an errant pass that squirted around on the floor until Kokjohn gobbled it up and was fouled. Wilson called a time out and then Kokjohn made the front end to seal the game for the Hounds.
“He told us in the timeout to not foul if I missed the front end of that,” Kokjohn said.
Wilson said he was happy with the offensive output in the second half, specifically Kokjohn’s uptick.
“We had balanced scoring,” Wilson said. “Treavor really played well in the second half. I chewed on him a little bit at halftime. I just needed more effort offensively. He needs the ball inside. He can score but he needs confidence and for whatever reason I wasn’t seeing that in the first half.”
He also said he was aware of the Chargers fourth quarter production, but stuck to the team goal defensively.
“Our goal every quarter is to keep our opponents to single digits,” he said. That was our goal and things got away from us in the fourth and we gave up 17. But I give credit to the kids in the end where for 45 seconds or so our guards took care of it and that’s why we had the lineup in there that we did.”
The Hounds now face Mount Pleasant at Mount Pleasant on Thursday night beginning at 7 p.m. The Panthers downed Keokuk in the second game of the night 67-30.
The 20-2 Panthers have beaten the Hounds two times this year in conference play by an average of 32 points and are currently rated 6th in the state by MaxPreps.
“It’s hard to beat a team three times in any year, but they’re a good squad. We’re gonna go back to film and hit practice the next two days and have a game plan ready for them on Thursday,” Wilson said.
Rounding out the scoring for the Hounds were Rose with 5 points, Landon Bentley with 5 points and Lorenzo Riles with 2.