By CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Fort Madison area basketball players received several all-conference awards due to their prowess on the hardwoods this year.
Highlighting honors for this year was Holy Trinity Catholic High School senior Cory Hopper who was named Southeast Iowa Superconference South co-Player of the Year with Mason Porter of New London.
Hopper averaged 19.3 points per game on the season, which was second in the conference behind Porter’s 19.5 ppg. clip. Hopper shot 45% from the field, 33% from three-point land and 76% from the free-throw line.
He moved into the point guard possession in the Crusaders’ 10th game when fellow senior Connor Conrad, who was named 1st Team All Conference after only playing in just ten games during the year, went down with a knee injury.
“Sharing with Porter is a big honor because he is one of the best players in the state, let alone the best sophomore in the state,” Hopper said. “Winning that award was something that never crossed my mind before the season because I didn’t think there was even a chance. I was more focused on the team.”
Hopper said he was proud of what the team did this year and how that helped him grow as a player.
“I think we had a pretty good season. We improved a lot from the year before and we even doubled our wins and beat the conference champ once. And with Connor, also being one of the best players in this conference, we could’ve added a few more wins.”
Head Coach John Hellige said Hopper made a commitment to improving his senior year after averaging 16 points as a junior. Hopper said he rode the bench as a sophomore.
“I knew he had even more to give his senior year,” Hellige said. “He worked very hard this summer and put on about 25 pounds of muscle and didn’t miss a single open gym or camp. He took his game to another level for sure.”
Hellige said Hopper showed signs of being a dominant player as a junior and as a senior he was a dominant player from start to finish.
“At times as a junior, Cory would blend in during parts of each game, but this year as the point guard he didn’t have that option. He was simply amazing. He’s a great example to the younger kids. If you put in the time and effort, you will improve. In Cory’s case he improved tremendously as a player and a young man.”
In addition to Hopper’s and Conrad’s honors, seniors Bailey Merschman and Nick Pothitakis both earned Honorable Mention All-Conference status for the Crusaders. Conrad averaged 15 points per game in just 11 contests, two of which he played very sparingly. Pothitakis was the Crusaders’ defensive specialist and was always assigned the other team’s top scorers. Merschman averaged just under eight points and six rebounds per outing.
The Fort Madison Bloodhound boys also racked up some post season honors.
Junior Kaleb Cresswell was selected to the Southeast Conference First-Team All Conference squad. Cresswell averaged 14.7 points per game which was good enough for third in the conference. He had 62 assists which was tied for fourth in the conference and only committed 42 turnovers.
“He had a great season.. led us in scoring and he’s the best shooter in the conference,” Head Coach Ryan Wilson said. “Kaleb played well this year and was deserving of that award.”
Senior CJ Richardson and junior Treavor James-Kokjohn were both named 2nd team All-Conference.
“Yeah it was great to have three guys make the first two team. That’s a huge reason for our success this year.”
Richardson, who handled the point guard duties for the Hounds, was sixth in the conference in scoring at 11.7 points per outing and third in assists with 72 on the year.
James-Kokjohn was second in the Southeast Conference in rebounding at 8.8 board per game and was fourth in scoring behind Cresswell at 12.0 points per game.
Landon Bentley, Austin Rose, both seniors, and sophomore Logan Rashid, were all named to the honorable mention squad. Rashid averaged 6 points per game, Bentley scored five and Rose just under four points per outing.