BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Bloodhounds chased and nipped at the heals of the Washington Demons Monday night in Class 3A substate boys basketball, but couldn’t come up with the right play at the right time.
The Hounds bowed out of the 2017-18 season with a 54-50 loss in Washington in the Substate 5 bracket. The Demons now face a loaded Osky squad Thursday that features 7’0″ junior Xavier Foster and 6’10” Cole Henry.
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Fort Madison ends the season 7-14 and lost three times to the Demons including a 73-60 loss on Dec. 18, and 73-64 loss on Feb. 1.
The Bloodhounds trailed by as much as eight in the game, but at five different points trailed by just a point, the last time with 1:58 left in the third period when junior Jayden Fedler converted a bucket on a rebound of his own shot.
The bucket forced a full time out by Washington to regroup. After the time out, Demon junior Brock Sobaski got loose inside and missed a three-footer, but rebounded his own shot and scored on a put-back to extend the lead to three.
Senior Brandon Keester, who led the Hounds with 18 points on the night, coughed up the ball in transition and Washington’s Trevor Quigley scored down under for a five-point advantage 43-38 at the end of three.
Hounds freshman Dayton Davis missed after getting clear off the dribble from the left side to open the fourth period and the Demons got a bucket from senior Cade Hennigen.
But the Hounds weren’t finished. Fedler scored in the post on the next possession and junior Parker Denning would follow that up with a bucket after Fort Madison’s Logan Rashid blew through the Demons’ press and gave a no-look offering to Denning on the fly down the left side that made it a one-possession game again with about five minutes left.
Denning and freshman Miles Dear would commit back-to-back personal fouls giving the Demons two-of-four at the free throw line before Davis would counter with 4:01 left to cut it again to a three-point game 47-44.
Junior Luke Turner would score for the Demons off a dribble drive through the Hounds match-up zone, but Keester would counter with his fifth 3-ball on the night to make it 47-49. The Hounds pressure would force a steal, but Fort Madison couldn’t convert in transition.
After a full-timeout by Washington to settle things down, Turner would hit again with 1:54 left and a 51-47 lead. Fedler would get a bucket inside after working his way down from the free throw line. The Hounds would get another Demon turnover inside the Fort Madison pressure up front from Rashid and Davis, but would then turn it back over, and Turner scored again in transition to make it 53-49.
Fedler and Turner each would get a free throw in the final :45 seconds, but Fort Madison couldn’t catch fire before the buzzer.
“We only had four turnovers at halftime,” Wilson said. “That was a big focus and we did those things, but we didn’t do other things like offense rebounds. We just had to be better tonight at all those things.”
Despite finishing three games under .500, Wilson said he never questioned the heart of his seniors.
“I told Brandon and Logan, you never had to question their character… you never questioned their commitment. They came to open gyms, hit the weight room and they did what they needed to do to be successful. I have no question they will be successful in the game of life, too. It’s not just basketball we coach. They’re gonna go on and do great things.” Wilson said.
Aside from a 2-2 tie in the opening moments, Fort Madison trailed the entire game. The Demons opened up a five point 17-12 first quarter advantage with Turner hitting inside again off the dribble in the lane and drew a foul from Keester.
In the second period the teams traded buckets to a 24-16 Washington lead, but the Demons would miss their next six straight shots. Meanwhile Keester would lace one from about 23 feet just right of the top of the key, and Rashid would follow with a 3-ball of his own to cut the lead to two.
Both teams would commit turnovers in the next two possessions. Fedler would then get the ball down low and miss the inside move, but draw the foul. He’d make one of the two freebies to make it a 1-point game. With 1:10 left in the half, the Demons’ Ethan Hunt broke up the cold shooting with a bucket to keep Washington in front 26-23.
Davis would score for the Hounds off the dribble to get within one again. Sobaski would counter and Rashid would score again for Fort Madison on a running 12′ floater at the buzzer to make it one point game at the half 28-27.
Head Coach Ryan Wilson said the Hounds got beat badly off the dribble in the first half.
“They just pounded us off the dribble in the first half. Whether we were in man or zone – and we’re better than that. We have to get better at those things,” Wilson said.
Rashid said the game came down to giving the Demons too many boards on their side of the floor.
“We were right there the whole time. The whole week we had a good game plan and we executed it, but in the end they just got more rebounds,” Rashid said after the game. “I think that’s why they had the lead at the end of the game, they just got so many second opportunities. It’s a tough pill to swallow.”
Keester agreed it was the Hounds lack of rebounding that ultimately decided the game.
“We were scoring, but our defense wasn’t very good and what killed us was our offensive rebounding. I think they had 13 or 14 total. Rebounding better would have won us the game,” Keester said.
Fedler finished with 16 for Fort Madison, Rashid had ten on the night, while Davis added four and Denning had two.