BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
FORT MADISON – Ryan Wilson said if his team shoots 70 percent from the free-throw line, it’s acceptable.
He would have taken 50 percent on Friday night, because it would have meant his team won.
Fort Madison’s free-throw struggles proved costly in a 52-51 home loss to Burlington High School.
The Bloodhounds (6-5 overall, 3-3 Southeast Conference) shot just 15-of-34 in free throws. They were just 4-of-10 in the fourth quarter when they had a chance to take control of the game.
“What do you say?,” said Wilson, Fort Madison’s coach. “It’s hard to put something like that in words. All I had to do was go in the locker room, write up the numbers. And even before I went in, the kids knew. The kids knew what it was. It’s tough to swallow.
“If someone would have told me tonight’s game would have been decided at the free-throw line, I wouldn’t have believed it. I thought it would have been something else.”
Burlington’s Tyce Bertlshofer made the second of two free throws — he missed the first — with 4.4 seconds left for the winning point. Fort Madison had a chance for the win, but Miles Dear’s 3-pointer hit the front of the rim as time expired.
The Grayhounds (4-4, 3-1) had their own free-throw issues, especially late. Jackson Carlson missed the front end of a one-and-bonus with 1:25 left, and Fort Madison’s Dayton Davis scored on a putback 20 seconds later to bring the Bloodhounds to within 50-49. Brendon Hale missed the front end of a one-and-bonus with 44 seconds left, but Burlington secured the rebound and Michael Alexander was fouled. He made just 1-of-2 free throws for a 51-49 lead, then Fort Madison tied the game on a Phillip Goldie basket inside with six seconds left.
The Bloodhounds’ first-half free-throw shooting set an ominous tone. They were 6-of-13 while also committing nine turnovers, but went into halftime with momentum.
Dayton Davis missed the second of two free throws, but Dear raced down the rebound, and hit an 18-foot jumper as the buzzer sounded, and Fort Madison only trailed 26-23.
“Had we made a few of those free throws then, it’s a tie game,” Wilson said. “We made some shots, got some stops, and took the lead. Then when we relinquished the lead, it was through turnovers. But overall, that’s not what beat us.”
Fort Madison went on a 9-0 run to start the third quarter, but the Grayhounds tied the game to close the quarter.
Dear led the Bloodhounds with 16 points. Goldie had 14 points, and Davis had 11. Reiburn Turnbull had nine.
“I knew we were close to having four in double figures tonight,” Wilson said. “Phillip’s so darn athletic. He made some shots, got some big rebounds for us.”
Fort Madison plays at Holy Trinity on Saturday night.
“We’ll get right back in the gym tomorrow at 10 a.m. for shoot-around,” Wilson said, “and we’re going to shoot free throws.”