BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
FORT MADISON – The first game at No. 1 didn’t bother Fort Madison’s boys basketball team.
The Bloodhounds, who moved to the top of the Associated Press Class 3A poll on Monday, were thriving in the rare air on Friday night, rolling to an 82-42 home win over Keokuk.
Fort Madison moved to 11-0 overall, 6-0 in the Southeast Conference, with an impressive victory in front of the largest crowd of the season.
“It’s exciting, it’s nice to be recognized for these guys’ hard work,” Fort Madison coach Ryan Wilson said. “But at the end of the day it’s a number.
“The biggest thing that number does is bring people out. This gym was packed. Every section was packed. There are people who haven’t been here all year that I saw tonight. It’s like, ‘Oh, these guys are good, let’s go watch them.’ That’s really, really the big thing about it.”
It was quite the show. Fort Madison outscored the Chiefs (3-9, 0-7) 48-18 in the second half, using its full-court press to put on a constant squeeze.
“It was just a matter of getting into our defense, and playing hard,” Wilson said. “Our press was great in the second half, and that’s what we want. Get up and down, let the defense feed into our offense, and finish.”
It was a close game throughout the first half — Fort Madison’s biggest lead was 11 points on two occasions — but it just set up the whirlwind that was coming.
The Bloodhounds’ first 20 points of the third quarter came on layups or putbacks. Dayton Davis, who finished with 28 points, had 12 points in that run, including 10 consecutive.
But it was his looming presence at the top of the press that was just as important.
“He plays so hard,” Wilson said. “To try to stat his deflections is almost impossible, because he gets his hand on so many.”
Wilson said the Bloodhounds’ overall defense was strong.
“I thought our defensive transition, going from our press to half-court, was good,” he said.
Phillip Goldie added 14 points for the Bloodhounds. Reiburn Turnbull had 12 in the win.
Diego Garcia led Keokuk with 17 points. MJ Davis had 15 points.
The Bloodhounds play host to West Hancock on Saturday, the second game at the top of the polls.
“We know that target is really, really big right now,” Wilson said. “Everybody’s going to want to knock us off, one way or another.”