BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Last year the Fort Madison girls basketball team lost to Fairfield by a combined 65 points in conference play. In the second quarter Friday, it looked like a similar story was playing out.
But despite being down 25 points with about 4 minutes to go in the 3rd period, Fort Madison made a game of it before falling 49-40 in Southeast Conference action.
The Hounds went into a cold slump from the field and at one point were 2 of 18 from the field in the second and third periods and trailed 41-16.
A basket by junior Brandy Walker fell after she got bumped by Fairfield sophomore Hannah Simpson in the lane, and seemed to send a spark Head Coach Tony Sargent’s crew.
After a couple defensive stops on both ends of the court, freshman Camille Kruse scored slashing her way through the Lady Trojans matchup zone for a bucket to cut the lead to 19 at the end of the third.
Then Sargent started to change things up a bit.
“We had to go into a man defense and we hadn’t played man much,” Sargent said.
“I thought the girls did a decent job of it, and I thought it caused Fairfield to play a little quicker and caused some turnovers there.”
The move worked as Fairfield couldn’t really get set in the halfcourt and didn’t get good looks at the basket. Fort Madison turned up the heat in the lane as well holding Fairfield to only one offensive rebound in the fourth quarter.
Senior Anna Kester got things going in that quarter with a 3-ball from the left wing and Walker would follow up with another tough basket inside on the next trip down.
The man defense held up as Fairfield failed to score a point until Fort Madison had closed the gap to eight at 35-43. Senior Destiny Gridley scored from right side of the lane to end the drought and put the Trojan back up by 10.
Walker would score again inside with 1:55 left to cut it back to eight and force a full time out by Fairfield. Out of the break, Fairfield would stretch the offense and force Fort Madison to foul. The Trojans were able to keep the ball in the hands of Sara Drish, who would hit four of six free throws in the final minute to seal the win.
“We’re right there,” Sargent said. “In the last two losses we shot 22% against Mt. Pleasant and 28% tonight, and you’re not going to win many games, no matter who you play, shooting like that.”
The Hounds are now 2-3 on the year, but have lost their last two games by a combined 14 points shooting about 25% from the field.
Sargent said he was proud of the way the girls didn’t give up in the fourth quarter, but said the shooting has to come around.
“We got back within seven and you gotta be proud of those kids. They didn’t give up – they were on the floor, hustling,” he said.
“If you look at the game we missed so many easy baskets. We work 45 minutes to an hour every night on shooting. It’s gonna turn around. Last year you get beat by this team by 40 and 25 and now their coach says, ‘you guys play hard’.
“As a coach, that’s the best compliment you can get – your kids play hard.”
Walker led the Hounds with 12 points, Kester and Sara Bernhart each had nine, while Nadia Boeding and Kruse each chipped in with five. Kruse and Bernhart combined for 14 boards to lead Fort Madison in rebounding.
Fort Madison travels to Danville on Monday for a non-conference matchup.