Dodger boys start tourney journey

The Fort Dodge boys want another shot at Des Moines Roosevelt – the team that eliminated them from the postseason a year ago.

To have that chance, the Dodgers must first avoid the revenge factor themselves here Monday.

Fort Dodge (8-13 overall) welcomes Johnston (9-12) to the Dodger gym for a Class 4A substate opener this evening. The game starts at 7 p.m.

Head coach Tom Daniel would love to see an encore of his squad’s 46-31 victory in Johnston earlier this month. Daniel also knows that performance has no bearing on what will happen tonight.

”On the plus side, our kids should have some confidence in knowing that if we play well, we have a good chance of advancing,” Daniel said. ”By no means should we be overconfident or just pencil this one in as a win, though.

”We know as well as anyone that anything can happen on a given night, and nothing can be taken for granted – especially come tournament time. The team that executes and gives more of an effort will move on. That first encounter won’t have anything to do with the outcome (Monday).”

The Dragons are led by 6-foot-4 junior forward Jay Knuth, who averages 16.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per contest. Junior Nick Stitzell (9.0 points) and senior Luke Jorgensen (8.9 points, 7.5 rebounds) are the other Johnston leaders.

”This is really a contrast in styles,” Daniel said. ”They’re a bigger, more physical, frontcourt-dominated ballclub, and we’re more perimeter- and guard-based.

”Knuth and Jorgensen are veteran presences. They’ve seen this kind of environment. And Coach (Bobby) Sandquist is a terrific basketball mind.”

Fort Dodge, which has just one senior on its roster, features a balanced attack, with junior JC Hatcher (14.3 points), junior Zach Martinson (10.1), senior Tyler Vaughn (8.8), junior Andrew Stover (7.7) and junior Blake Wilder (7.5) all offering scoring options.

The Dodgers are 7-7 in the new year and 6-6 at home this season.

”Having a game in our gym is a huge benefit,” Daniel said. ”We’ve earned that right, and now we need to take advantage of it.

”Our kids are excited, and we’re hoping for a great turnout. I honestly think our gym can get as loud as anywhere in the CIML. We just hope to match the intensity of a playoff atmosphere and out-work our opponent.”

Monday’s winner will go to Des Moines Roosevelt and face the Roughriders (16-5) in a Substate 2 semifinal on Friday. Fifth-ranked West Des Moines Valley (18-3), Ames (11-10) and Mason City (3-18) are on the other side of the bracket.

Roosevelt eliminated Fort Dodge in last season’s substate semifinal round, 56-42.