BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Mt. Pleasant has given the Fort Madison Bloodhounds fits for the past four years and they come to town Friday with a senior class that is one of the best in the state.
The Bloodhounds gave the Panthers all they wanted last year in the district finals in Mt. Pleasant, but the Panthers eliminated Fort Madison 62-51 ending their season.
Cedar Rapids Xavier then dropped the Panthers in the first round of the state tournament 44-59.
That team comes to the Hound-Dome pretty much intact, especially with regard to scoring, with the exception of senior Tom O’Connor lost to graduation and Brody McGhygy due to injury.
The Hounds also bring most of their scoring back with seniors Kaleb Cresswell and Treavor James-Kokjohn. James-Kokjohn is averaging close to 19 points per game, second in the conference behind Mt. Pleasant’s Brady Sartorius. James-Kokjohn also pulls down right at 14 rebounds per game, leading the Southeast Conference in both offensive and defensive boards.
Cresswell is fifth in the conference in scoring at just around 12 points per game, but garners a lot of defensive attention as a 3-point threat. But Fort Madison Head Coach Ryan Wilson said it’s the other pieces of the puzzle that boost the Hounds’ chances of knocking off the Panthers.
Junior Logan Rashid has taken over for CJ Richardson at the point guard spot. Richardson, who graduated last year, averaged right at 10 points per game, Wilson said last year Rashid was able to run the floor and shoot, but this year he has to be the floor general.
“It’s taken Logan a little time to adjust because now he’s the point guard, the ball is in his hands but we still need him to score,” Wilson said. “He had a real good game against Centerville. With him, he’s just a great kid that works hard and needs more confidence in his game to do something.”
Junior Brandon Keester has also been a bright spot for the Hounds with some timely 3-point shooting and has been in double figures three times for the Hounds.
“We’ve got Rashid, Cresswell, Kokjohn, but we need more pieces of the puzzle than that. (Brandon) Keester has done a pretty good job of hitting some open shots but he has a lot of growth yet,” Wilson said.
Wilson said to have a chance against Mt. Pleasant you have to realize someone’s going to score for the Panthers but the Hounds need to slow that down and keep the other players’ games limited.
“We have to slow (Sartorius and Magnani) down for sure. It’s going to take defensive discipline,” he said. “We need to keep them in front of us. We gotta know that one of them is gonna get some points and if we can limit the others that’ll help. (Colin) Mulford’s a good shooter, (Jonathan) Ita’s a good shooter, and (Kieran) Kohorst plays well in the post.”
He said Mt. Pleasant coach Paul Rundquist will have his team ready with Fort Madison after being pushed in district’s last year.
“Rundquist is a good coach and he has plays designed for Sartorius, so he can hurt you in many different ways. He’s kind of like (Miles) Wentzien in that respect. He can score from a lot of places.”
Wilson said his team realizes Mt. Pleasant will be a team to beat if the Hounds want to have a shot a state this year.
“I think the biggest thing holding us back is playing as a team and trusting each other,” Wilson said. “They know that Mt. Pleasant is the team to beat in the conference and the area. And if they want a chance to get to state we’re going to have to get by them. Our seniors are confident. They know we need to change some things. Confidence isn’t an issue with our group, it’s just playing the way we need to play to beat the No. 6 team in the state.”
He said the Panthers travel well and with only a 30 minute drive to Fort Madison, they will probably bring a crowd with them.
“Mt. Pleasant travels well and they’ll fill the gym, so we’ll need as much support as we can get and a great student section to help us win Friday night,” Wilson said.
The night will feature freshman/junior varsity/varsity boys games with tip off of the freshman game at 4:45.