BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
KEOKUK – If there were points given for disrupting offenses, the Fort Madison girls basketball team might have made it game Saturday night.
But since points are only given for the ball going through the hoop, the Lady Hounds season came to a close with a 50-22 loss at Keokuk in the Class 4A regional semifinal.
The Hounds’ defense made things difficult in the early going causing the Chiefs to go just 3-13 in the first half keeping a hand in the face of prolific shooters like MacKenzie Northup and Michenna Davis.
Northup, a senior transfer from Central Lee, was averaging close to 19 points per outing and was held to just 12 on the night, only two in the first half.
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Head Coach Todd McGhghy said the game plan was to try and limit Keokuk on the perimeter, especially near the top of the key.
“You have to cause some disruption in that offense,” McGhghy said after the game. “We crunched some data and saw that 53% of their shots around the 3-point line were from the top of the key, so we tried to take that away from them and I think we had some success.”
But the Hounds continued to struggle being able to convert in transition off the press break. Keokuk employed a man press and limited Fort Madison to just one bucket in the first quarter, a running jumper from sophomore Maddie Rashid from the left elbow of the lane.
Fort Madison only took one other shot in the period. Senior Jassmine Bass tried to put score in the lane but had her shot blocked. Bass would also miss two free throws in the period and Fort Madison was behind 13-3 at the end of one.
The Bloodhounds continued to be cursed by turnovers in the first half. McGhghy said the girls were averaging about 26 turnovers a game and committed 14 in the first half. The limited the miscues to just eight in the second half.
Keokuk’s shooting woes continued in the 2nd quarter. Freshman Abby Wolter opened the quarter with a bucket, but then the Chiefs missed their next four shots from the field. Fortunately for Keokuk, Fort Madison couldn’t produce any kind of a run because six turnovers in the first four minutes kept them from getting any shots to fall.
Despite going just 2 of 6 in the period, the Hounds did go on a 6-2 run in the final 2:16 of the first half to cut the lead to a manageable 12 before the half ended at 20-8.
Junior Anna Kester scored on a running floater and Kylie Cashman scored in transition after the Hounds again broke through the man press just prior to the end of the half.
Keokuk began to pull away quickly in the third period as Fort Madison again couldn’t find the net, missing it’s first six shots from the field and going just 1-3 from the free throw line. Davis and Northup were still shooting cold, but Keleigh Hall converted a bucket a minute into the third quarter to push the lead to 14.
Fort Madison got whistled for three personal fouls inside a minute and Wolters and Northup went 3 of 4 from the line. Then Northup started to heat up with a three-pointer that made it 28-9 with just over three minutes remaining in the 3rd period.
Junior Cassidy Koeber would score back-to-back buckets and Northup would convert another three-point play to set a 35-13 advantage after three periods. Fort Madison missed their last four field goal attempts in the third period after Kester and Bass made buckets to cut into the lead at 32-13.
But Davis and Northup took over in the fourth quarter scoring 10 points in the first two minutes to break the game wide open at 42-15. Davis scored the first seven and Northup hit another three from the right baseline.
Fort Madison senior Braxtyn McGhghy would tack on a 3-ball from the left baseline in front of the Hound bench and Nadia Boeding would follow up with basket on a runner from the right side, but it was too little-to late for the Hounds as Keokuk pulled away for the 42-17 win.
“You have to be able to get off their press and that gave us some fits tonight. They were in a man press and we just didn’t handle it very well,” McGhghy said.
“Our plan was to attack the rim and we were able to have some success drawing some fouls and getting to the hoop when we finally did start to attack.”
Kester and McGhghy led the Hounds in scoring with five points each. Rashid and Bass had four each and Boeding and Kylee Cashman each had two for Fort Madison.
Northup and Wolter each had a dozen for the Chiefs, while Davis was also in double figures with 10.
McGhghy said Bass and McGhghy were his most consistent seniors.
“Jassmine came back to us from, I think, her freshman year, so she stepped away for a couple years and that’s tough to do and come back and be successful, but she’s so athletic she made some real contributions this year,” McGhghy said.
He said his daughter Braxtyn had a solid year, but isn’t the type to be fully committed to any sport.
“I felt bad for her. I see her heart and character in how she plays, but she’s not gonna put the time in. Whatever season is upon her, that’s the sport that has her attention.”
He said McGhghy was the only player ever kicked out of a practice, this year, but he added, coincidentally, that she’s also the only player that made every single workout and practice.
The Hounds finish the season 2-20, but did get a regional win on Wednesday for the first time in three years.