Finding a rhythm

Fort Dodge boys basketball coach Tom Daniel considers his team’s imbalanced home record to be nothing more than a statistical anomaly.

Even so, there was a certain sense of relief to the Dodgers’ 70-58 victory over Waterloo West in the FDSH gym on Tuesday.

Daniel’s squad prevailed on their court for the first time since Dec. 14, yet improved to 8-4 overall in the process – the program’s best start to a season since 2005-06. Fort Dodge is unbeaten on the road in six trips, but the Dodgers had gone over five weeks between home wins before last night.

”We’ve faced some incredibly tough competition (FDSH’s four losses are to Des Moines North, Waukee, Johnston and Ankeny Centennial, who are all ranked with a combined record of 40-7) so I wasn’t necessarily worried about how we were playing here, but it’s always a confidence boost to get one like this on your home court,” Daniel said. ”We weren’t really sure what to expect from West; being from the (Mississippi Valley Conference), there wasn’t a lot of tape and kind of a limited scouting report to work with.

”I thought we were very sound defensively in the first half especially, we rebounded well (the Dodgers held a 26-16 edge on the boards), and we distributed the ball (Fort Dodge recorded 18 assists on its 23 field goals). It was good to see us taking care of business and focusing on the task at hand instead of looking ahead to Friday (at Ames).”

Senior guard JC Hatcher cleared the 20-point hurdle for a fourth consecutive time, leading the way with 21 points. Hatcher has 92 points in the Dodgers’ last four games, which has moved him into seventh on the school’s career scoring charts (810).

”JC’s been very reliable for us; I don’t want to say you come to expect 20-plus point games because that’s an awful lot to ask from a high school player, but he’s been scoring and helping in a variety of ways,” Daniel said. ”I was really pleased with our balance offensively, though. We got 15 from Zach (Martinson), 12 from Krunal (Thakor), and at least six from three others. That’s always a key to our success – how well we’re sharing the basketball and spreading out the opposing defense.”

Fort Dodge was never seriously threatened in this one. The Dodgers had doubled up the Wahawks (3-6) by halftime at 28-14, and they led by as many as 21 points on four different occasions before West made things look respectable in the last five minutes of regulation.

After a slow start, Hatcher started heating up in the third period. The 6-foot senior guard scored 13 points during that eight-minute stretch without missing a single shot or free throw as a 14-point FDSH lead ballooned to 21. Seventeen of Hatcher’s 21 points came after the intermission.

Alex Landers paced the Wahawks with 19 points, while 6-foot-5 junior Lincoln Conrey added 18 – right at his season average. All but six of the duo’s points came in the second half, though, with Conrey tallying 10 points in the last five minutes – predominantly against Dodger reserves.

”We threw a lot of different guys at Conrey, and I thought collectively, they did a great job,” Daniel said. ”He’s obviously a solid player, but I think our guys frustrated him at times and made him force some things until he got into a rhythm late.

”It’s no secret that our effort and intensity has to be at a high level to regularly beat teams at this level. We can’t take anything or anyone for granted. It was good to see our guys focused and playing hard to keep the momentum going.”

Fort Dodge now takes on the Little Cylcones (5-7, 1-0) this Friday for the early CIC Northern Division lead. Ames took care of Des Moines East on Tuesday, 55-47.