BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – After losing nine of their last 10 games, the Fort Madison girls basketball team, could understandably hang their heads.
But the 6-12 Hounds are doing the opposite. They’ve tripled the win output of each of the last two years, have excitement building and even got a standing ovation from the Fort Madison faithful after dismantling Washington 49-20 Friday night at the Hound Dome.
Washington smacked Fort Madison 46-23 back on Jan. 3 at their place, but the Lady Hounds, behind another sparkling effort from freshman Camille Kruse, were bent on returning the favor.
Kruse led all scorers with 23 points, finding open looks on some patient perimeter ball movement throughout the game for Fort Madison.
After trailing a couple times early in the first quarter, Fort Madison took over quickly after a Sarah Bernhart bucket inside gave them a 4-3 lead. Kruse would hit one of five 3-balls on the night and post Brandy Walker would bank one in from about 13 feet straight out for a 9-3 lead.
Isabella Boeding would then score in transition on the next possession off a nice interior pass from Kruse to put the Hounds up 11-3.
Fort Madison’s defense also showed up limiting Washington to just one shot on most possessions, a telling tale considering the Demons feature two 6’0″ inside girls in Addison Six and Olivia Pacha.
The two had 17 on Jan. 3, but were held to just a combined nine points Friday.
The Hounds went 7-15 shooting in the first half, but in a little bit of foreshadowing, hit 4-of-6 free throws to take an easy 20-9 lead into the locker room. Kruse had eight of Fort Madison’s nine second quarter points.
Washington would score the first two buckets of the third period to cut the lead to a manageable seven at 20-13, but Kruse again would find the range for a 23-13 lead.
Both teams would go chilly from the floor until about the 2:07 mark in the period when Molly Knipe hit a jumper. Pacha would answer inside for Washington, but Kruse would come off a top screen and hit another 3 in front the Hounds bench to put Fort Madison up by 14.
Fort Madison didn’t convert a single field goal in the final period, but only took one shot. The Lady Hounds went a season best 20-24 from the free throw line, including 14 of 16 down the stretch to put the game away.
The Hounds were whistled for just eight personal fouls on the night, compared to Washington’s 19.
“We’ve been working on that all year… we have,” Sargent said of the proficiency on the freebies.
“I have a goal at practice every night that we make 70% or we run. And we don’t run very much.”
He said getting the ball to Walker early before foul trouble helped free up Kruse, as well as the defense keeping the game in check and creating offense.
“I think the kids are playing better. We put a game together tonight. Everybody got to play quite a bit,” Sargent said.
“I’m playing four freshman and they’re getting a lot of minutes.”
The girls have three regular season games left against Davenport West, Albia and Burlington before starting regional action. Sargent said those games are winnable, and nobody is writing off games against the Hounds anymore.
“I don’t think people are saying anymore, ‘Oh, well I’m glad I got Fort Madison’. We’ve been competing.”
Bernhart finished with five points. McKenna Cashman, Walker and Anna Kester each had four. Dalyn Wondra had three and Molly Knipe, Kylee Cashman, and Isabella Boeding each had two points for the Hounds.
Anna Nacos had 17 for Washington (11-7).