BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – It was a heck of a game, right up to when it wasn’t.
With just over three minutes left and the Fort Madison boys down by just two, things went as cold as the air outside the Hound Dome.
Ottumwa would outscore Fort Madison 12-1 down the stretch for a 54-43 win in the Hounds regular season finale. Fort Madison opens Class 3A Substate 5 action Monday against Mt. Vernon at Mt. Vernon with a 7 p.m. tip.
The Hounds lost Friday after a solid first half, but then went ice cold shooting in the second half.
But Head Coach Ryan Wilson said the Hounds played a solid game and just couldn’t get shots to fall when they needed, and couldn’t get to the free throw line.
Fort Madison shot only seven free throws on the night converting just three. The Bulldogs on the other hand when to the free throw line 24 times and made 20, 12 in the final period.
“I thought we played a good game,” Wilson said. “We just couldn’t, for whatever reason, get to the line as much as they did. But our kids played hard against a much bigger squad.”
Fort Madison had a lead 40-39 with about 7 minutes left in the game when Dayton Davis scored off in inbounds bounce pass from Miles Dear under the basket.
On the next possession, Ottumwa would slip through Fort Madisons 1-2-2 trap press for a transition bucket and Dear would foul Kie Glosser on a layup. Glosser would hit the freebie for a 42-40 lead.
In the next half court possession for Fort Madison, Dear would miss on a three attempt, but Davis working hard against 6-5 senior Trae Swartz would yank down the rebound with one hand and fight it away only to get fouled going back up.
Davis would hit the back end of the two free throws. The Hounds would miss 13 of their next 14 shots including a flurry of shots in the final :30 that Ottumwa couldn’t get control of, and the Hounds couldn’t get to go down.
The one basket came from Davis off a steal to cut the lead to 48-43 with 2:20 left.
Ottumwa would only convert one basket the rest of the way, but went to the free throw line 10 times converting eight to put the game away.
The Bloodhounds trailed through the first 10 minutes to open the game but tied things up at 15 when Tate Johnson buried a 3-pointer from the right wing with 5:09 left in the half.
There would be four more ties and three lead changes the rest of second quarter before Davis scored with :02 left on the clock to give Fort Madison a two-point lead 26-24 going into the break.
Davis tied Swartz with 17 for game-high honors. Dear had 10 for Fort Madison. Matt Hopper had six, Reiburn Turnbull had five, Tate Johnson had three points and Landes Williams had two on the night to round out Fort Madison’s scoring.
Ottumwa’s Matt Graeve would tied things up right away in the 3rd and then Dear would hit a 3-ball to give Fort Madison the lead again.
The Hounds would miss the next four shots from the field while Ottumwa built a 35-29 lead, but Hopper would hit back-to-back threes, the second in front of the Bloodhound student section to get things a bit rowdy and tie the game at 35.
Turnbull would hit a three as ball slipped through the net right after the buzzer sounded to give Fort Madison the lead going into the final period.
“We attacked the basket, we got shots at the basket and shots in the lane. We did a lot of good things. They just didn’t call it or it got blocked or whatever,” Wilson said.
With the post-season set for Monday, Wilson said he told the Hounds to keep their heads up.
“We played a good basketball game. We took care of the ball tonight, but we didn’t get to the free throw line and shots didn’t fall, but we did a lot of good things.”
Wilson said he really has seven starters and six of those seven can hit the three, but they have to rebound better.
“We’re not big. We’re athletic, strong and can jump a little, but our point guard is our second leading rebounder,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to rebound better.”