Dodger girls move into finals

ALGONA – The Fort Dodge girls basketball team is a single step – albeit a big one – away from the state tournament.

The Dodgers (11-11 overall) ousted homestanding Algona here Saturday, prevailing 53-48 in a Class 4A, Region 1 semifinal inside the Bulldog gym.

Head coach Scott Timmerman’s squad will now face second-ranked and defending champion Sioux City Heelan (19-3) on Tuesday in Storm Lake for one of eight 4A state invites to Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Heelan eliminated Spencer last night, 75-44.

”This just means so much to us – the coaches, the players, the fans,” FDSH head coach Scott Timmerman said. ”I’m very proud of how our girls performed in a game that could’ve gone either way at the end. That was awesome to see.

”We just wanted to give ourselves a chance. Now we’re there (in the regional finals). That’s all we can ask for.”

A see-saw contest tipped in Fort Dodge’s favor late. After senior Tangy Wiseman pushed the Bulldogs (10-12) ahead 48-47 with a minute left in regulation, the Dodgers scored the final six points to prevail.

A bucket by junior Mallory Kilian put FDSH on top at 49-48. Algona then missed a shot and was forced to foul with less than 30 seconds remaining.

Sophomore Madi Bennett grabbed a rebound after the Dodgers missed the front end of a one-and-one, and junior Lani Van Zyl sank a pair of free throws after a Bulldog foul. Van Zyl swished two more foul shots to secure the victory with five seconds to go.

”The girls didn’t get rattled,” Timmerman said. ”Wiseman hit some big threes early in the second half and they got up by seven, but we didn’t panic and our three-quarter court pressure started to create some turnovers. We made the defensive adjustments late in that (third period) that got us back in it.”

Senior post player Tiana Mericle scored 15 points for Fort Dodge, which had gone 3-39 in the last two seasons combined. Van Zyl added 14 and Kilian contributed nine.

A big third quarter was the difference, as the Dodgers turned a 27-24 halftime deficit into a 43-37 advantage. The Bulldogs led 37-30 with four minutes left in the period before Fort Dodge closed on a 13-0 run.

Wiseman had a game-high 19 points for Algona. Fellow senior Abby Strohman added 12.

”We were so thrilled to have a supportive, vocal crowd, and we know we’ll have the same on Tuesday (against Heelan) in Storm Lake,” Timmerman said. ”They gave us that second wind of energy we needed in the second half.

”We respect Heelan a great deal obviously – they’re the defending state champs, and one of the odds-on-favorites to win it all again. It’s a one-game opportunity, though. We’ll give it our best and see what happens.”