BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – You have to go back to Feb. 23, 2015 for the last time Fort Madison beat Mt. Pleasant in boys basketball.
That streak tallies up even straight losses including Friday night’s 62-38 loss at home in Southeast Conference action.
The pressure of the streak was palpable in the early going. Senior Lorenzo Riles was hit with a technical after being called for a foul inside that prompted him to slam the ball on the court less than five minutes into the game.
Then, with the game all but decided in the fourth quarter and the Hounds down 23 points, senior Kaleb Cresswell, the Hounds leading scorer on the night with 17, was sent to the lockerroom after an exchange with Head Coach Ryan Wilson with about two minutes left in the game.
Mt. Pleasant head coach Paul Rundquist had implemented a two-man trap defense on the wings where Fort Madison typically has success with long-range shooting. The Hounds were able to navigate the trap in the first half and had the game within six points midway through the second half before the wheels came off.
“That is a very good defensive team,” Wilson said after the game. “Rundquist is a really good coach and Mt. Pleasant is a notoriously good basketball team right now.”
The No. 6 Class 3A Panthers are 4-2 on the year, but their losses came to top-ranked Class 3A Cedar Rapids Xavier and Class 4A’s Dubuque Hempstead.
Neither team converted a bucket until Mt. Pleasant scored on a jumper three minutes into the quarter. The Hounds answered on the next possession and then Riles was called for the foul on the next trip down the floor. The Panthers took advantage with a six-point swing including the bucket, the technical and a bucket on the maintain of possession and the score settled at 8-2 after the possession.
Mt. Pleasant all-state guard Brady Sartorius then converted a 3-pointer after holding Fort Madison on it’s next possession to make it 11-2.
The Hounds’ Sheymouhr Redd-Donald, who was able to get penetration off the dribble in the first quarter due to Cresswell being double teamed on the wings, scored inside for Fort Madison. Then the teams traded buckets through the rest of the first period with Cresswell hitting a 3, and the Panthers Colin Mulford and Rhett Zeglen each hitting for threes.
The second quarter turned more physical. Eleven personal fouls were called in the quarter and the Panthers didn’t convert a bucket until Kieran Kohorst hit inside and was fouled by the Hounds’ Treavor James-Kokjohn. Cresswell and Redd-Donald scored for Fort Madison with Redd-Donald’s driving bucket cutting the lead to six.
But Kohorst’s 3-point play pushed the lead back to nine. James-Kokjohn, who was leading the Hounds in scoring at 19 points per game, scored his first points with less than three minutes left in the half and then added two free throws on the next trip down the floor to make it 26-19, and the Hounds would get no closer the rest of the night.
The Panthers pressured the Hounds on the inbound passes, but stayed out of a press for the most part, choosing to anchor in on their half court defense where they held the Hounds to just 19 second half points, including an 18-6 third-quarter swing that saw five different Panther’s score. The Hounds only got a free throw from Cresswell in the final 5:16 of the period.
The closest Fort Madison would get would be 17 at the beginning of the fourth when Cresswell scored five unanswered.
“I thought in the first half we played well as a team,” Wilson said. “The second half we didn’t do very well. But Mt. Pleasant…they make you work for it. We just have to learn to keep our composure, be patient and stay disciplined and we didn’t do that. You take that 7-point swing out of the first quarter on the technical play and it’s a three-point game at halftime”
The Hounds were without Brandon Keester who’s been solid off the bench for the Hounds at the start of the season, averaging around 10 points per game. Keester was battling some inflamation and had to sit. James-Kokjohn finished with eight points, Redd-Donald had six, Rashid had three, while Riles and Jayden Fedler each added a bucket.
The Hounds only got to the free throw line eight times in the game converting just four.
The Hounds take their 3-3 mark on the road with the junior varsity squad Tuesday to Iowa City Liberty for a 6 p.m. tipoff. They host Notre Dame on Thursday just before the winter break.