BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
WASHINGTON – It’s been almost a quarter of a century since the Fort Madison girls basketball accomplished what it did Friday night.
The Lady Hounds won the Southeast Conference title for the first time since 1998 with a 48-18 win over Washington on the road,
Saturday morning head coach Tony Sargent said he wasn’t 100% sure of the feat, but said from what he’s heard his Lady Hounds had won the conference title in just his second year steering the program.
Fairfield is 6-2 on the year and Fort Madison is 8-1 in conference play. The Hounds have one game left with Burlington on Senior Night at the Hound Dome next Friday. Fairfield has games left with Keokuk and Mt. Pleasant.
If Fairfield wins out right and the Hounds would stumble against Burlington, the two would be tied at 8-2 with the Hounds winning both conference games with Fairfield giving Fort Madison the tiebreaker.
Fort Madison Activities Director Jeremy Swink said he hasn’t looked at the tiebreaker language in detail, but said he believes the Hounds have the conference title.
Sargent said he told the girls when he took the post in 2019, things were going to change.
“I said to the girls two years ago, ‘You gotta be kidding me – you only have two conference titles since the beginning of time’? That’s gonna change,” Sargent said. “I don’t think they believed me.”
The Lady Hounds moved to 15-1 overall and are just one point from being perfect on the year when they opened conference play with a 62-61 OT loss to Mt. Pleasant on Dec. 4.
Camille Kruse led the Hounds Friday with 12 points. Malarie Ross had 10 for Fort Madison who held Washington to just 18 total points, the lowest amount allowed all year. They held Central Lee to 22 back on Jan. 9.
The game was a very low scoring affair in the first half. The Hounds held Washington to just a 3-pointer in the first quarter and another in the second for a total of six points in the half.
“We did a little bit of everything last night 2-3 zones and we played man a lot and pressed a bit which was the first time in a while last night,” Sargent said.
“But we were struggling offensively, too. It wasn’t pretty, but when you’re out of school all day it seems to make the girls a little sluggish. I told the girls after the game if we play like that on Saturday we may not even score.”
Sargent was referring to today’s game added at Iowa City West earlier this year. The Women of Troy are rated 6th in the state in Class 5A. The Bloodhounds have not yet been ranked by the Iowa High School Girls Athletic Union, despite their almost perfect record.
The Hounds broke things open in the second half going on a 13-5 run behind a couple of 3-balls from Nadia Boeding. Boeding had eight points on the night, all in the 3rd period.
Washington wouldn’t get closer than 18 the rest of the night.
The Hound will certainly face stiffer tests prior to the post season with the additions of Iowa City West and Monroe City.
Sargent said Iowa City West should clearly be the toughest matchup of the year for the Hounds.
“I think it’s a big test. I mean they’ve been ranked in 5A most of the year and have a historic program up there. The way I look at it, we need to play some of these tougher teams to get ready for the post season,” Sargent said.
Sargent also agreed to a game with Missouri’s Monroe City for next Saturday in Fort Madison. Monroe Center City is currently ranked No. 1 in Class 3 in Missouri.
Sargent said the Panthers reached out to him for a game.
“They’ve been getting some publicity and we’ve been getting some and they wanted to reach out and see who’s best. It’s nice when good people want to come and play ya.”
BCMoore has the Hounds 31st in the state in Class 4A, just one spot above Fairfield. The data driven system has Fort Madison as the fourth best defense in the state in 4A, but ranks their strength of schedule at 47th out of 48 teams.
“It’s going to be interesting that’s for sure,” Sargent said of the upcoming games. “It’s different and gets these kids a taste of something different so we can be more prepared for the tournament.”
Brackets for 4A and 5A girls regional play will be released next week. Classes 1A through 3A were released this week.