BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
FORT MADISON – Fort Madison High School’s girls basketball team has learned how to win close games.
The Bloodhounds’ head coach would rather the games wouldn’t be as tight as they’ve been.
“They’re making them too dang close for me,” Sargent joked after Friday’s 40-36 home win over Keokuk. “I told them in the locker room, I’m 66, I can’t take much more of this.”
He’ll take them, though, if it means the Bloodhounds can win a Southeast Conference title.
Fort Madison (13-1 overall, 6-1 conference) swept the season series against Keokuk (5-6, 3-2). The Bloodhounds face Fairfield at home next Friday — the Trojans are the only other one-loss team in conference play, and that defeat came to Fort Madison on Monday.
“It was a great win for us,” Sargent said of Friday’s victory. “Now we need to get Fairfield, and then keep getting conference wins. That was our first goal this year — win the conference.”
Fort Madison held Keokuk scoreless in the second quarter, and led 35-25 at the end of three quarters. But the Bloodhounds only scored five fourth-quarter points, but the key points came in the final 1:30.
Camille Kruse’s layup gave Fort Madison a 38-36 lead. Keokuk had two possessions in which it could have tied or taken the lead, but missed shots both time, the second miss a Kayde Martin 3-point attempt from the corner with nine seconds left.
Malarie Ross hit two free throws with four seconds to play for the final margin.
“It was getting a little bit too close for me,” Sargent said. “We struggle really bad when we get up by 10 and then let it go.”
Fort Madison trailed 14-11 after the first quarter, but then the Bloodhounds blanked the Chiefs for a 19-14 halftime edge.
“I think we were getting back better,” Sargent said. “Early on, they were pushing the ball hard. We weren’t getting back as good as we should have in the first quarter.”
Kruse led Fort Madison with 11 points. Ross and Brandy Walker each had nine points. Irelynd Sargent had eight points, seven in the second half.
Abby Wolter led Keokuk with 14 points.
Sargent may not like the closeness of the victories, but he’ll take it.
“I think it shows how fast this program has moved forward,” he said. “The girls believe in themselves.”