Dodgers play for state berth

STORM LAKE – Scott Timmerman knows the task at hand is a daunting one, but the Fort Dodge girls are ready for their shot.

The Dodger girls (11-11 overall) will face second-ranked and Class 4A defending state champion Sioux City Heelan (19-3) in a Class 4A regional final.

Fort Dodge will be looking to end a 19-year state tournament drought; the program’s last tournament appearance came in 1995.

“Our girls are excited to be in this position and understand that the next step we’re going to play someone really good,” said Fort Dodge head coach Scott Timmerman. “We understand where they’ve been (qualified for state seven of the last eight seasons).

“Their style of pace is fast and up and down the court.”

The Dodgers are coming off a tight 53-48 game against Algona. Seniors Tiana Mericle (15) and Lani Van Zyl (14) led the Dodgers.

The Crusaders knocked off Spencer 75-44 to advance. They’ve won six consecutive games and nine of their last 10 ballgames.

Heelan is led in scoring by Jenna Bork (18.5), Megan Todd (12.7) and Tristan Beaulieu (11.2).

“Defensively we have to challenge their outside shooters,” Timmerman said. “Bork is a tremendous talent. She does a nice jobe attacking the basket.

“In the regional final she shot 15 free throws. We have to challenge on the outside and not get of position.”

The Crusaders have an impressive resume heading into the regional final. They lost to No. 9 Southeast Polk (5A) No. 2 Western Christian (2A) and Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln.

They own victories over No. 1 MOC-Floyd Valley (3A), No. 3 Hinton (2A) and No. 11 Sergeant Bluff-Luton (3A).

Timmerman understands the stigma that is attached with Sioux City Heelan, but is hoping to make a push.

“We see some things we are looking to take advantage of,” Timmerman said. “We feel if we get the ball into Tiana (Mericle) down low we can make some plays.

“We can’t play their style of game. We have to slow it down to our advantage. We haven’t been on this stage and they have and they have big expectations.”

The Dodgers are led i scoring by junior Lani Van Zyl (11.2). Mericle is also averaging double figures with 10 points. Also starting for the Dodgers is senior Ashley Altman (8.5), junior Mallor Killian (6.6) and sophomore Madi Bennett (6.3).

“The key for us is we have to avoid their hectic pace and take our shots,” Timmerman said. “They’re O.K. if they give up a layup and then they can run.

“If we don’t have a shot, we have to pull it back and run some offense.”