Pope posts 27 points in Panther win
After struggling to sink shots in the first half of the game, the Mt. Pleasant boys’ basketball team came out strong in the second half and upped their conference record to 3-0 with a 58-50 win at home over Ft. Madison on Friday night.
The Panthers were led by Faith Pope’s 27 points — 19 of which came in the last two quarters — and 12 rebounds.
Cameron Frank also scored in double figures with 13 points on the night.
But early in the game, none of the Panthers were scoring.
Ft. Madison went on a 10-3 run to start the game, scoring the first six points before Ryan Hanna put the Panthers on the board with his and-1 layup.
Hanna later hit a jumper just as the first quarter ended with Mt. Pleasant trailing, 16-10.
“We knew they were tough; they’re a pretty good team and we knew we had to bring our “A” game to win,” Pope said.
The Panthers limited Ft. Madison to only five points in the second quarter to catch up on the scoreboard, but still couldn’t take a lead.
The teams were tied at 19 when the Bloodhounds sank two free throws late in the quarter to take a 21-19 advantage into halftime.
“We were getting some looks, but the shots just weren’t falling — that’s basketball,” Mt. Pleasant Coach Paul Rundquist said. “(At halftime), I told them that we needed to work the ball more. I didn’t think we handled our offense very well, and we needed to create more scoring opportunities, instead of just taking (three-point shots).”
The Panthers made that happen in the second half, starting with the first play of the third quarter: Pope made an and-1 layup on an assist from Hanna to give Mt. Pleasant its first lead of the game, 22-21.
“I started to get good looks in the second half,” Pope said. “At halftime, (Rundquist) told the team that we had to go out and play hard, and that’s what we did.”
Mt. Pleasant went up by as many as five points in the third quarter, taking a 28-23 lead on Connor Shull’s layup, but the Panthers then allowed the Bloodhounds an eight-point run that gave Ft. Madison a 31-28 lead.
Pope hit a shot to cut the Bloodhounds’ lead to one, their last lead of the game, and then came back with a shot from deep to give Mt. Pleasant a 33-31 edge.
It was the first Mt. Pleasant three-pointer that found it’s mark — on the night, the Panthers went only three-for-16 from beyond the arc.
Another three pointer, this one from Frank, would give Mt. Pleasant some momentum going into the final eight minutes of the game.
Ft. Madison had tied the score at 35, but as the clock counted down the final seconds of the third-quarter, Frank banked in a half-court shot that gave the Panthers the lead for good.
“That was huge,” Pope said. “I’d like to see him try it again, though!”
The fourth quarter saw Frank score twice on a fast-break layup and Dalton Conrad sink a three-pointer.
A layup by Pope with 2:19 left to play was the last shot Mt. Pleasant would make from the field, but the Panthers put in eight free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
The Panthers up their season record to 4-2 with the win.
This week, the Panthers play Tuesday and Thursday, hosting Oskaloosa and West Liberty, respectively.
They don’t see another SEC team until they travel to Washington on Jan. 4, and they don’t see the Bloodhounds again until they travel to Ft. Madison on Jan. 25.
“They’re a nice team,” Rundquist said of the Bloodhounds. “It’s so much different to see them live than on film — they’re very aggressive; they make you guard from all five positions.
“We’ve got to toughen up a bit,” he added.
In Friday night’s game, the Panthers were 17-for-49, or 34.7 percent, from the floor.
Hanna was a perfect three-for-three from the field and made three of five free throws for nine points on the night, behind only Pope and Frank. Conrad scored five points; Shull and Brant Shelman each scored two.
The Panthers were out-rebounded by Ft. Madison, 34-23. Pope had more than half of those boards for the Panthers; Hanna pulled down five rebounds.
Conrad and Frank each had five steals; Frank dished three assists.
Pope blocked four shots.