BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – With two seniors out with injuries and one senior leaving the team, the Fort Madison Bloodhounds came up short against Burlington Notre Dame 35-40 in girls high school basketball action Saturday.
Senior guard Kamryn Bailey is still out with symptoms of a concussion and senior guard Taylor Shannon didn’t play the second half for the second straight game as the Hounds try to keep backfilling positions and stay competitive.
Senior forward and 2016 2nd team All Conference post player Amber Dilsaver left the team this week.
Head Coach Charlie Knipe said his team had energy and focus and was pleased with the way they played, despite experimenting with the lineup to see where personnel performed the best.
The Hounds found themselves down 0-6 before Sarah Bernhardt the front end of a one-and-one. A pesky 1/2 court trap press caused the Bloodhounds to commit three turnovers on their first three possessions. Bernhardt scored Fort Madison’s first seven points in the first quarter eventually putting Fort Madison up 8-6 at the 4:42 mark on a couple of free throws.
Sophomore Dalyn Wondra scored inside with just over a minute left and then Bernhardt converted a 3-point play when she was fouled on a move inside to tie the game at 13. The Nikes adjusted to the Hounds’ game plan of feeding Bernhardt and started sagging defensively to deny her inside.
Fort Madison took its first lead of the game in the opening moments of the second quarter on a bucket by newcomer Brandy Walker in the post and the Hounds had a three-point lead with 5:30 left in the period. Notre Dame, which is playing with basically a junior varsity squad with only one senior in Hailey Blythe and one junior in Abby Dowell, tied the game on a Blythe 3-pointer at 20-20.
Bernhardt hit another free throw to put the Hounds up, but then the Nikes went on a 6-0 run with four points from sophomore Taylor Ackerman to take a 26-21 at halftime.
The two teams would both struggle from the field in the second half, missing shots and trying to find the handle on the ball and learning their respective offenses. Nike sophomore Riley Todd got loose on the perimeter for a 3 to push the Nikes’ lead to 29-21. Hounds’ junior Braxtyn McGhghy scored from the right side to get the Hounds back within six. Blythe converted a bucket at 2:58 to push it back to eight.
Todd hit again to make it a nine-point game before sophomore Anna Kester hit a 3-pointer from the right side to again make the lead six. The Hounds weren’t able to get much closer despite back-to-back 12 footers from Kylie Cashman again from the right side. Bernhardt scored at the buzzer in the fourth quarter for Fort Madison’s final points.
Knipe said with both teams as inexperienced as they were, it was a fun game to watch. But he said Fort Madison will have to learn to play without a dominant post and things are going to change.
“We’re gonna go to a full court press and we’re gonna deny, deny. I think we were falling asleep at times today,” he said. “But we’re excited. It’ll be new for us because we’ve never not had a post player. So we’re gonna focus on denying the ball, playing tough man-to-man defense and play a lot of girls, and we’re gonna take our lumps,” he said.
He said he hopes to have Bailey back for practice on Monday and Shannon will probably be sidelined with a groin injury she’s been nursing since the end of soccer season.
“I was going to sit her today, too, but she talked me into it,” Knipe said.
Our girls are going to have to realize that if we are going to play this way we’re going to have to focus on different things, but this is a good experience for them and it’s going to be fun. It’s gonna be tough but when we get through that phase we’re gonna be in pretty good shape.”
The Hounds fall to 0-4 on the season and play host to West Hancock on Tuesday.