FD girls can’t solve Little Cyclones

Senior Night ended in disappointing defeat for the Fort Dodge girls basketball team here Friday.

Playing their first game in a week, the Dodgers (9-11 overall, 2-4 CIC Northern Division) were plagued by shooting woes in a 49-33 setback to Ames at the FDSH gym.

As a unit, Fort Dodge fired at just a 26.5 percent (14 of 53) clip from the field in their third lowest offensive output of the season.

“I definitely thought we played much better defensively than we have in previous years against (the Little Cyclones), but obviously our shots weren’t falling,” FDSH head coach Scott Timmerman said. “Despite the loss, I was pleased with our effort. To only give up 49 points to Ames, I’d take that every time in a heartbeat.”

Tiana Mericle, a 6-foot-1 senior, anchored the Dodgers with 12 points and seven rebounds.

“I think that good things happen on offense when Tiana touches the ball,” said Timmerman. “She’s really showing a lot of growth and getting more confident in the lane at taking it to the basket. She’s also doing a nice job of finding her open teammates.”

Junior Lani Van Zyl chipped in six points for Fort Dodge, while classmate Mallory Kilian, senior Ashley Altman and sophomore Madi Bennett each netted five.

“With Madi’s sore shoulder and Ashley’s bad back, we have a few nagging injuries right now, so I wasn’t surprised by our shooting woes (Friday),” Timmerman said. “Once the ball was thrown up, though, I felt like we went out and competed hard until until the end.”

Kilian’s triple early in the second quarter briefly pushed the Dodgers in front, however, the Little Cyclones gained control with an 11-2 burst to close out the half. Molly Sanders, a junior, reeled off nine straight points during that pivotal stretch for the visitors.

“We stressed the importance of not losing (Sanders) defensively, but she did a good job of finding openings,” said Timmerman. “(Jamie) Steyer stepped out and hit a couple of big threes, too, which really hurt us.”

In the turnover department, the Dodgers committed 16 compared to 14 for the Little Cyclones. FDSH narrowly won the battle on the boards, 33-32.

Sanders delivered a game-high 15 points and eight rebounds for Ames, while Steyer – the daughter of Iowa State women’s assistant coach Jodi Steyer – added 12 points. With their sixth victory in a row, the Little Cyclones (14-7, 5-1) clinched a share of the CIC Northern Division title with defending Class 5A state semifinalist Mason City.

Mericle, Altman, Lexi Astor, Kari Grindberg and Rachel Herrington all received a starting nod in their final regular-season home appearances for Fort Dodge, which fell to 4-6 on its own court this winter.

“Our five seniors have worked very hard in sports and even harder in the classroom,” Timmerman said. “That same group played a lot of minutes two years ago when we didn’t win a game (the Dodgers went 0-21 during the 2011-12 campaign), and for them to stick with it really says a lot about their character.”

Dating back to the 2006-07 season, the Dodgers have now dropped 17 consecutive meetings against the Little Cyclones.

Looking to snap a mini two-game slide, FDSH will host Storm Lake (1-19) in a 4A, Region 1 quarterfinal on Wednesday. Tip is set for 7 p.m. The Tornadoes have suffered 14 straight losses since a tight 38-37 home triumph over Estherville-Lincoln Central back on Dec. 13.