BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Close games in a cross-town rivalry give the entry fees substantially more value.
Aside from the $7,000 some fans at Saturday’s Holy Trinity Catholic/Fort Madison boys basketball gave to the HTC boosters in exchange for cake, the true value was in a 19-foot jumper that fell short as the buzzer sounded.
HTC’s Jason Thurman took a pass with four seconds left and meandered the left perimeter before pulling up with the jumper that came up short leaving the Crusaders with a 58-56 loss to Fort Madison.
Click here to see the video of the final play:
The two teams aren’t strangers to close games. Two years ago Holy Trinity won a 50-49 instant classic at Shottenkirk Gymnasium.
But Saturday’s annual knock-around started with a bang for the Crusaders and bust for Fort Madison.
HTC hit on seven of it’s eight first shots from the field including seven points from Vasin Thurman in the paint en route to 19-7 lead before Fort Madison Head Coach Ryan Wilson called his first time out to try and regain control.
The Hounds were down 11-2 before junior Miles Dear banked in a 3-ball from the left wing to cut it to 11-5. The Crusaders’ Kaden Medland answered with a three from the right baseline.
Neither team would score in the next two possessions until Dayton Davis scored inside to cut the lead to seven. Then HTC would go on a 13-2 run for a 24-7 lead forcing another Hound time out and a scolding from Wilson at the bench.
“I just told them one possession at a time. There’s nothing we can do in that situation to erase that deficit but one defensive stop at a time, and we ended that half with eight consecutive stops.” Wilson said.
The scolding took effect and Fort Madison came out of the time out and went on a 17-3 run of their own switching from a match-up zone to man-to-man defense and moving to a zone press off made baskets.
In the rally Reiburn Turnbull hit a 3. HTC’s Jason Thurman answered on the next possession with just over three minutes left in the half.
Davis converted a three-point play with 2:46 left for the Hounds and then Tate Johnson laced a 3-ball to cut the lead to eight at 30-22.
HTC would get another shot from the field in the half while Fort Madison’s Phillip Goldie, who had a season-high 16 in the Hounds loss Friday to Burlington, converted a couple free throws and Miles Dear scored inside to complete the half trailing by just four 30-26.
Holy Trinity Head Coach John Hellige said the Crusaders don’t have the physicality of the Hounds and need to learn to play a little tougher when they have a lead.
“One thing we are working on is our toughness. We don’t have a weight room or football here and it shows,” he said.
“We need to embrace that physical play and we took a step in that direction tonight. It didn’t end in a win, but it made us stronger for the stretch run and what we’re really playing for is Feb. 15 when districts start.”
Out of the break Chandler Rung set the tone for Holy Trinity. After Dear converted to open the scoring for Fort Madison, Rung scored five unanswered taking advantage of the man-to-man defense to score off dribble penetration.
Rung would score 15 of his game-high 22 in the second half including a sparkling 7-of-7 from the free throw line.
But Davis, who led Fort Madison with 20, was equal to the challenge and wreaked havoc at the front of the Hounds’ press.
“It’s just meant to slow them down a little and maybe get some turnovers and points off those,” Davis said.
With HTC back up by seven at 35-28, Davis got a steal at half court and brought it back for a bucket to cut it to five. The two teams would go back and forth for a few minutes before Goldie scored inside off an inbounds pass to cut the lead to three at 41-38.
Rung would answer with a bucket at the other end. HTC’s defense would hold, but Davis would get another steal and score in transition to make it a three-point game again.
Vasin Thurman would back down Matt Hopper inside for another bucket, but Hopper would get a rebound off a Goldie miss at the other end and score on the putback to make it a two-point game at 45-43 at the end of the 3rd.
Fort Madison would get their first lead with 6:49 left in the game when Goldie, who finished with eight on the night, scored in the lane for a 46-45 Hounds lead – a lead they would never give up.
Jason Thurman would hit his fourth 3-ball of the night with 3:45 left to cut the lead to one at 51-50. Dear and Vasin Thurman would swap baskets before Turnbull hit a longball to make 56-52 with 2:12 remaining.
Rung would drive again drawing a foul on the Hounds’ Johnson and convert the free throws. Vasin Thurman would then get whistled for a foul on Davis at the other end and Davis made his two freebies for a 58-54 game.
Rung again would drive and this time draw a foul from the left baseline on Goldie. After converting the two, Fort Madison was whistled for a travel. They would get a steal on the Crusaders’ next possession with about 10 seconds left, but Dear was whistled for a double dribble in a trap turning the ball back over setting up the last final seconds.
Hellige said he and Rung had a good chat at the morning workout and told him the Crusaders were going to need him to take more a role in the coming weeks.
“We need Chandler to have games like that. He’s a tremendous player and when he’s in that attack mode, he’s one of the best players around,” Hellige said.
Hellige also said playing a high-caliber larger program like Fort Madison, doesn’t allow much room for letting them back in the game.
“When you’re a 1A school playing a great 3A program you can’t allow them back in the game like that. But I told the kids I was super proud of them and the way they played.”
Wilson said the Hounds were coming off a big game and a last-second loss to Burlington on Friday. Fort Madison spent a lot of energy and effort in that game, only to come back 24 hours later and face off in a cross-town rivalry.
“We just came out flat, made some mistakes, and had five turnovers in the first quarter. Give credit to Holy Trinity – they knocked some shots down early,” Wilson said.
“My whole thing at that first quarter break was we gotta weather their storm, but we’re not scoring either. So we switched up our defense, forced some turnovers, gave ourselves some opportunities, and the kids responded well.”
Dear finished with 10 points on the night to go with Tate Johnson’s nine and Goldie’s eight. Turnbull had seven and Hopper had four to round the Hounds scoring.
Vasin Thurman finished with 17 on the night followed by Jason Thurman’s 14. Medland had three in the loss.
Fort Madison is now 7-5 overall and 3-3 in the Southeast Conference and takes on Keokuk (6-5, 2-3) on Friday night in big conference matchup.
HTC takes on Van Buren (0-10, 0-8) Tuesday night in an SEISC South tilt.