Dodgers fall short

WEST DES MOINES – A fourth-quarter comeback couldn’t overcome a second-period scoring drought and the Fort Dodge boys’ basketball team saw its season end with a 50-44 loss to West Des Moines Valley in a Class 4A substate semifinal here Friday night.

Fort Dodge went the final 5:26 of the second quarter without scoring a point and despite a 19-point final period, the Dodgers bowed out of tournament play with a 12-10 record, the first time since the 2010-11 season they closed the year with a winning mark.

Valley, now 14-8, plays Ankeny Centennial on Tuesday in a substate final at Ankeny High. The Jaguars advanced with a 75-41 thumping of Ames last night.

“The kids are resilient and we battled,” said a dejected Dodger Coach Tom Daniel. “We just couldn’t match their depth. They were running in a bunch of guys at once. When you get into the playoffs, the pressure mounts. They cranked up their defensive effort (in the 2nd period) and we got tired and started to make some mistakes.

“As a program, we can take a lot of pride in this season. The seniors should be proud. This program is in better shape after three years than it was when they got here.”

Senior JC Hatcher led the Dodgers with 17 points, giving him 1,002 for his career. Fellow classmate Zach Martinson added 13, including nine in the fourth quarter.

“One silver lining is JC going over 1,000 points. That’s a team thing, too. He scored a lot of points, but there was someone assisting him on a lot of shots and we had to run our offense to get him those chances to score. Everyone can take pride in that,” said Daniel.

Sophomore Turner Scott led the Tigers with 16 points. He was the only Valley player in double figures. Tyus Mason and Quinton Curry added eight apiece.

Valley had beaten the Dodgers 78-65 earlier in the year, but Daniel made a defensive change and held the Tigers to just 17 field goals. However, the Tigers splashed home 12 free throws, including 10 in the fourth quarter alone.

“We wanted to come out in man and challenge them,” explained Daniel. “We stayed in zone too long last game. Defensively, we held them. We just needed a play at the end and didn’t come up with one. Sometimes that happens.”

Despite physical play all game, the Dodgers shot just six free throws to 19 for the Tigers. Valley had a 12-4 edge in free throws made.

The Dodgers led 12-10 after the first quarter and pushed the lead to 17-13 on a three from Hatcher with 5:26 to play. That would be Fort Dodge’s last points until Andrew Stover hit a shot with 7:05 left in the third quarter.

Valley closed the half with three-point shots by Mason and Scott and buckets by Scott and Tyler Williams. Williams also scored off a turnover 20 seconds into the second half and Valley led 25-17 at that point.

Stover, Blake Wilder and Hatcher each scored for the Dodgers to make it 25-23 with 4:40 in the quarter, Valley answered with a 6-0 run and it was 31-23 with 2:33 left.

After Wilder scored to make it 31-25, the Tigers reeled off six straight again and led 37-25 with one quarter to play.

Martinson then took over for the Dodgers, scoring their first seven points of the fourth period. Free throws by Stover and back-to-back buckets from Hatcher cut the lead down to 42-38.

Fort Dodge actually had the ball with a chance to get closer, but Krunal Thakor was called for a charge on a drive to the bucket with 2:09 to play.

“That was big,” said Daniel. “It would have been nice to have a chance to get it down to two points at the line. We just couldn’t get on the right side of the officials all night.”

The Dodgers were then forced to foul and Valley made eight free throws down the stretch to match buckets from Hatcher, Martinson and Wilder.

Fort Dodge loses eight seniors off its roster. Marquan Clayton, Thakor, Cody Ellis, Hatcher, Stover, Wilder, Martinson and Cody Rivers all suited up for the final time.

“These kids elevated our program,” said Daniel. “The challenge now is for the younger kids to see that it takes hard work. We can’t have any excuses. We just have to find what works.”