Washington Evening Journal
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Just two more weekends of Southeast Conference basketball means every game carries a little more weight. With just a handful of games left on the conference schedule, the weekend could see two teams clinch a share of the respective titles.
Thanks to some help from Fairfield, the Washington boys are back in the driver's seat of the boys race. That doesn't mean it is all smooth sailing, however, as the Demons face yet another tough test on Friday night.
Washington will take its 6-2 SEC record south as the Demons take on Fort Madison (3-5) in a rematch of a thriller in late December.
The Demons had to rally from a double-digit deficit to beat the Bloodhounds when the teams first met in late December. A 21-point night from Ethan Patterson helped the Demons storm back to win 58-55.
Washington currently sits 1.5 games above Burlington in the standings with two games to go, which means a Demon win or a Grayhound loss gives Washington at least a share of the title for the second year in a row.
Fort Madison had won 10-straight in the series leading up to the 2018-19 season, but Washington has won every matchup ever since. A win on Friday would be the Demons' seventh-straight win over the Bloodhounds.
Burlington (4-3) certainly doesn't have a cake walk, especially considering the Grayhounds have lost four-straight games, including a 66-48 loss to Fairfield earlier this week. The Grayhounds will be in Mt. Pleasant (4-4) on Saturday as former Panther head coach Caleb Akey coaches at Mt. Pleasant High School for the first time since his departure.
The Panthers have simply owned Burlington in recent memory. Mt. Pleasant has won the last six matchups between the two teams, including an 88-80 double overtime victory earlier this season.
When the two teams met up in December, Michael Alexander forced extra time with a banked-in 3-pointer at the buzzer. Mt. Pleasant's Dewon Trent scored 27 points and Brevin Wilson added 22 to push the Panthers to victory.
Fairfield (2-5) and Keokuk (3-3) will meet for the first time this season after having their previous game postponed due to weather. The Trojans will host Keokuk.
Fairfield saw its six-game winning streak over Keokuk come to and end last year. Keokuk swept the season series in 2020-21, knocking off the Trojans 54-39 and 59-47.
Fairfield and Fort Madison are the only teams mathematically eliminated from the conference title race. Though Washington has re-emerged as the favorite, the Grayhounds, Chiefs and Panthers all have a shot at the crown.
That's not quite the case in the girls race, which has taken form in a big way. Fort Madison now has a stranglehold on the girls' race after a 51-31 win against Fairfield last week.
The Bloodhounds are 7-1 with two games remaining, both versus the bottom two teams in the conference. Washington (2-6) is first up to try and pull off the upset.
Fort Madison knocked off Washington 55-41 in Washington when the two teams met in December. Washington's Anna Nacos scored 21 points in the loss.
The Bloodhounds have won the last two meetings in that series. Previously, Washington had won 10 in a row.
One of the best girls rivalries in the SEC has been the Fairfield-Keokuk girls basketball rivalry, and the two rvals will finally meet again in the front end of a doubleheader on Friday.
Coming into this season, Fairfield and Keokuk had been the perennial powers in the conference. Keokuk has gotten the best of Fairfield as of late, winning five of the last six, including a 51-41 victory that knocked the Trojans out of the regional tournament last season.
Fairfield comes into that game with a 5-2 SEC record. Keokuk is 4-2, meaning both teams are mathematically still in the hunt, though Fort Madison would need to stumble.
The Chiefs are led by Abby Wolter, whose 18.8 points per game are second-best in the conference.
FAIRFIELD”S Danielle Breen is currently fifth in the SEC with 11.5 points per game.
The Mt. Pleasant girls (4-4) will travel to Burlington (0-7) on Friday night. The Panthers pounded the Grayhounds 55-15 in their meeting in December, helped out by an 18-point night from Andrea Lopreato. The Grayhounds scored five or fewer points in every quarter.
The Panthers have won eight of the last nine meetings.