BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Fort Madison Head Coach Tony Sargent didn’t take long to answer how many times his Lady Hounds haven’t been in a ball game this year.
The Bloodhounds took on Class 2A No. 11 Mediapolis at home Saturday and after a soft first half came storming back, but an upset bid fell a couple buckets short as Mediapolis left town with a 53-46 win.
“We were never really in it at Ottumwa. We were down about 23-11 at the half and then they blew us out.,” Sargent said after Saturday’s loss.
“Outside of that one, there really hasn’t been too many.”
The 15-1 Lady Bulldogs opened up a quick 10-point lead on the Hounds and after three straight turnovers in the first period forced Sargent to call a quick time out to settle his team.
Out of the 30 second timeout, freshman Camille Kruse hit a 3-ball and Anna Kester scored again after a defensive stop to cut the lead to 7-12. Mepo would go on a 6-0 run to end the first, however, up 18-7.
The teams played even ball to halftime with both scoring 12 in the second quarter. A driving basket by Mollie Knipe from the left side cut the Bulldog lead to four at 18-14, but that’s as close as Fort Madison would get on the night.
Mediapolis senior Helena Hillyard hit a 3-ball in the second period to put the Bulldogs up 10. The three points put Hillyard over the 1,000 point mark for the Bulldogs.
In the third period, Mediapolis pushed the lead back to 13 at 44-31 behind Hillyard’s seven points. But the fourth saw the Bloodhounds’ Nadia Boeding heat up hitting back-to-back 3-balls as Mepo keyed on Kruse on the perimeter.
Boeding’s second long ball came with 5:35 left in the game cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 44-37. Hallie Mohr would answer for Mepo to end a Fort Madison 6-0 run to start the period.
Junior Brandy Walker, who’s getting very comfortable with the ball anywhere inside 10 feet, put in an 8-foot jumper in the lane. After another defensive stop for Fort Madison, Walker would score again inside on a nifty pass from a driving Kruse to cut the lead to five at 46-41.
But luck would run out on the Hounds as they went just 1 of 6 from the field the rest of the way and committed six personal fouls down the stretch to let the Bulldogs button up the game.
“How can you not be proud of these kids. The girls came into the game thinking this team beat us 70-12 last year,” Sargent said.
“I told them if they beat us by 50 I’m resigning tomorrow because it ain’t gonna happen. It’s changed. That’s over. It’s done.”
Sargent said the girls are just learning how to be competitive again this year and some of the success is coming from rebuilding confidence.
Down by five and forcing the Bulldogs into a turnover with about two minutes left, Sargent called time out to set up the offense, but out of the break the girls didn’t execute the plan.
“We were gonna have a certain offensive set and they didn’t run what we set up, but that’s gonna happen sometimes,” he said.
“These kids are still not used to winning and they’re gonna do that kind of stuff. But these girls deserve a lot of credit. They fight hard and I’m proud of them.
“I’m not the greatest coach in the world, but I try to teach kids to have confidence in themselves and I think we’re starting to see some of that now.”
Kruse led Fort Madison with 14 points, followed by Boeding who had 12, her second straight game in double figures. Kruse connected on three 3-pointers. She set a school record a week ago when she hit for seven in a 25 point performance against Holy Trinity Catholic.
Walker had nine points, while Kylee Cashman and Knipe each chipped in with four. Kester and Dalyn Wondra both scored a bucket to round out the Fort Madison scoring.
Hillyard had 14 and Mohr 16 points to lead Mediapolis. Ruthie Jahn had 12.
Fort Madison (5-9) plays host to Keokuk Monday night in a makeup of Friday’s weather-related cancellation.