BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MOUNT PLEASANT – FMHS senior Kaleb Cresswell said he didn’t want anyone else to be responsible for losing the game in the Hounds’ 50-47 win over Iowa City Liberty, but he wouldn’t take credit for winning it either.
With the exception of a 13-13 tie at the 6:04 mark in the second quarter, the Bloodhounds trailed the entirety of Monday’s substate 5 bracket opener at Mt. Pleasant They took their first lead with just :48 left in the game at 46-45 on a two-point scoop shot down the left side of the lane by junior Logan Rashid.
Cresswell got FMHS to within a point when he got loose on a crossover from the right side and stroked a 3-ball to make it 44-45. The shot came after a :30 timeout by Liberty, who then committed an offensive foul, which prompted another full timeout by the Lightning.
“Being a senior, this being my last go around, I didn’t want anyone else to be responsible for losing that game,” Cresswell said, “If someone was going to miss a shot at the end, I wanted it to be me.”
Cresswell also converted two free throws with :24 on the clock to make it a three-point game at 48-45.
On Liberty’s next possession down, Treavor James-Kokjohn blocked a shot inside by Ethan O’Donnell that caromed off O’Donnell’s leg out of bounds. Rashid then took the next transition with :48 left through the lane for a driving layup.
Liberty’s Iziah Paulsen scored on the next possession down the floor with a one-handed drive down the right baseline that just went over the top of Jayden Fedler’s fingertips. Paulsen’s bucket prompted another full timeout by the Lightning, who were behind by just one point 47-48.
Rashid took the inbounds pass and raced through a trap attempt at half-court and buzzed into the land but was fouled by Paulsen. Rashid calmly laced the two freebies with just :03.8 left on the clock.
Liberty got an uncontested throw into about half court where 6’5″ Andre Brandon was able to dribble past the Hounds’ Treavor James-Kokjohn and get a nice look from about 2 feet beyond the 3-point arc and clanked the ball off the back of the rim at the buzzer.
Cresswell said the Hounds were debating on whether to foul or let the chips fall.
“We just talked in the huddle and Coach Wilson was thinking about fouling but then you have the clock stopping and possibly being down by one and have to inbound. So we decided to just play defense and if they were lucky enough to drain a 3 at the buzzer we’d go into overtime and beat them by 15 like we were supposed to,” he said.
Cresswell finished with 20 points to lead all scorers. Rashid had 13, nine in the fourth quarter.
The Hounds got down by as much as seven in the first period when freshman Ethan O’Donnell converted a couple free throws with 3:10 left in the period. Fort Madison was experiencing some chilly shooting in the first quarter going just 2 of 6 in the early going. Head Coach Ryan Wilson then subbed in Brandon Keester who cured the condition by hitting on a 3-ball off the bench to bring the hounds back within four 7-11. Keester hit again on the Hounds’ next possession down the floor to to make it 10-11 at the end of the period.
Ethan O’Donnell scored inside for Liberty to extend the lead to 10-13, but Keester stroked another 3-ball to tie the game at 13 with about five minutes remaining in the half. Fort Madison would only get one more field goal in the period as the Lightning’s defense held the Hounds to just six attempts in the 2nd quarter, extending their lead to 26-17 at the half. Liberty went six of eight from the field in the second and committed just one turnover.
Cresswell, who had just two points on some free throws in the first half, took over for the Hounds in the third quarter despite a pesky Liberty man-trap defense. Cresswell was able to get free off the dribble for three 3-pointers in the quarter and a bucket for 11 points. Sheymouhr Redd-Donald and Fedler each also had a bucket as the Hounds closed the gap, setting up the fourth quarter dramatics.
James-Kokjohn, who’s fifth in the state in rebounds, was held without a board or a point in the game.
“They were really face guarding me the whole game and stretching things,” the senior said. “I was struggling – I couldn’t get anything going at all but we had Kaleb and some other guys step up and got it done.”
“Treavor didn’t play his best basketball game,” Wilson said. “You have those nights, but that’s gonna to have to change if were going to have a chance Thursday. They did some things different, but he had a big block there at the end and I give him credit for that.”
Wilson said Cresswell’s second half shows how he can take over a game.
“That’s what you need. Every team needs one of those guys to take over. He’s not afraid to step up and take those shots as a senior and we needed that tonight.”
Cresswell said the sparking second half wasn’t what helped the Hounds back into the game and the eventual win.
“What won this game was defense and hard work,” he said. “I was able to get some shots, but that was because others were working their butt off to get me some open looks. I had some shots go off the back of the rim in the first half and made some adjustments because everything seemed long, but once I got the first one to go down, I knew we’d be able to shoot ourselves out of it.”
Junior Brandon Keester ended up with nine points on the night, while Redd-Donald and Fedler each had four.
The Hounds will now go up against Mt. Pleasant at 7 p.m. Thursday in Mt. Pleasant. Mt. Pleasant has an eight-game win streak over the Hounds, The closest game in the streak was a meeting in the same substate bracket last year where the Hounds fell 51-62.