BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FAIRFIELD – It took Fort Madison’s girls basketball team 36 minutes to score just 34 points Thursday night. The fortunate side of that story for the Hounds is that Fairfield only scored 28 points in the same time period.
The two squads ran into a 25-25 tie at the end of regulation in Fairfield, but Fort Madison was able to pull away in an extra 4-minute OT period for the upset over the hosts.
A strong defensive effort from both teams kept the scoring down and a combined three offensive rebounds in the first half was the story in a 17-15 Fort Madison lead at halftime.
Senior Malarie Ross had nine points at the half and junior Camille Kruse had four.
In the second half, Fort Madison shot just 1-12, but Ross went to the freethrow line 18 times and converted 13 to finish the night 17-22 with 22 points.
The fact that the Lady Hounds only managed one field goal in the final 2 1/2 quarters didn’t seem to phase Head Coach Tony Sargent.
He said he’s not sure if he would’ve believed his team would have come away with the win on the road, while only converting one shot from the floor in the second half – a runner in the lane from Aija Jenkins in overtime to give Fort Madison a 26-25 advantage.
Fairfield went to a spread man-to-man defense in the final four minutes and chased Ross and Camille Kruse all over the perimeter. But the two were able to protect the ball and move the offense around enough to draw fouls and get to the line.
Sargent said he was expecting the tight man scheme.
“They played man-to-man on us last time we played them,” Sargent said of the Hounds’ 46-38 loss to the Trojans in Fort Madison.
He said the Lady Hounds kind of got in their own way in the spread offense.
“There’s times when (Ross) has got it and we’ve got girls cutting in the lane and plugging it up too much instead of staying out wide and giving it room,” Sargent said.
“But I’m proud of the kids because they gutted it out. Sometimes you play ugly and win and sometimes you play pretty and lose. This was an ugly one.”
Ross made two freethrows with 1:57 left in the game to tie things up at 25 after trailing since early in the third period. However, Ross would miss two freethrows with :14 left in the game to potentially win it.
She said the misses bothered her going into overtime.
“For a second it did, but I knew I had to snap back into it or else we weren’t going to get the game,” Ross said. “Just think positive – next shot, next shot.”
She said the tenacious defense is what kept the Hounds from scoring, but she knew if the Hounds could play solid defense on the Trojans’ side there was a chance to win.
“Basketball is a two-way game. If you said we’re going to make one field goal in the second half, but then say we’re going to play knockdown defense, I’d tell you we have a chance to win,” she said.
Ross’ 17-22 night at the freethrow line will help pad her already top spot in freethrows in the state. She also leads in freethrow attempts.
In the overtime period, Fairfield’s Mallory Lyon got the scoring going and gave Fairfield the lead on the back end of two freethrows, 26-25. Jenkins would then score on a nice pass from Ross across the lane to take the lead back at 27-26. Kruse would convert a couple freethrows on Fort Madison’s next possession. Then Ross would follow suit with two clean freethrows. She would go to the line four more times, hitting on three to seal the win.
“It’s sometimes good to win a game like this. The kids didn’t give up. There are some things we gotta tweak a bit, but it wasn’t too bad.”
Fort Madison is now 4-3 in the Southeast Conference and 10-3 overall. They play host to Burlington Notre Dame on Saturday starting at 4 p.m. and then play four games next week starting with a makeup game with Burlington.