The Fort Dodge boys basketball team's defense was more than acceptable against third-ranked (Class 4A) West Des Moines Valley on Friday.
It was the rest of the Dodgers' performance that gave head coach Tom Daniel fits.
Despite holding the Tigers to 34 percent shooting, Fort Dodge was dominated on the boards and suffered through its own offensive struggles in a 64-44 CIML Iowa Conference loss here last night.
The league opener for both squads turned into a lopsided triumph for Valley (3-1 overall, 1-0 CIML Iowa), which led by as many as 31 points and held the Dodgers (1-3, 0-1) to just nine total field goals in the first three quarters of play. The Tigers missed 38 shots, but FDSH corralled only 16 defensive rebounds as its taller opponent consistently created second, third and even fourth opportunities for itself on the offensive end.
''I know some of that is their superior size and athleticism and some of its is their experience at this level versus ours, but those numbers are totally unacceptable,'' Daniel said. ''Our rebounding effort was pitiful. There's no other way to put it. Rebounding isn't just about being better physically. It's about effort and position. That's where this game was lost, because defensively, I thought we were pretty solid.
''This is a valuable lesson for our guys. On one hand, we're expecting an awful lot from kids who are learning what varsity basketball in the CIML is like on the fly. They've seen Ankeny, Southeast Polk and Valley, which are three of the premier programs in the entire conference. But on the other hand, we can't just ease into this. We have no choice but to learn from these games and get better accordingly, because there are no breaks ahead.''
WDM VALLEY 64, FORT DODGE 44
West Des Moines Valley - Kale Abrahamson 4-12 9-9 19, Nathan Meyer 3-6 3-5 10, Tanner Hinkle 3-7 0-0 8, Tyus Mason 0-2 0-0 0, Ryan Knoff 0-0 0-0 0, Clint Boffeli 3-4 2-4 10, Darrin Dafney 3-5 0-0 8, Cale Truhlsen 2-6 0-0 4, Broc Everett 1-4 0-0 2, Nicholas Galles 1-2 0-0 2, Brett Steffani 0-2 1-2 1, Turner McGill 1-2 0-2 2, Matthew Whitehouse 0-3 0-0 0, Nathaniel Whitham 0-2 0-0 0, Ryan Knoff 0-2 0-0 0, Ryan Knoff 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-58 15-22 64.
Fort Dodge - Jericho Habben 6-11 0-0 15, JC Hatcher 4-8 0-1 9, Sam Edwards 1-6 4-5 6, Tyler Vaughn 2-6 0-0 6, Andrew Stover 1-3 2-2 4, Michael Pals 2-3 0-0 4, Zach Martinson 0-3 0-0 0, Parker Van Zyl 0-0 0-0 0, Krunal Thakor 0-0 0-0 0, Marquan Clayton 0-0 0-0 0, Blake Wilder 0-0 0-0 0, Jake Porter 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 16-40 6-8 44.
Quarter scores: Valley led 16-7, 36-16, 53-26. Three-point goals: Valley 9-29 (Daffney 2-2, Boffeli 2-3, Abrahamson 2-6, Hinkle 2-6, Meyer 1-2, Whitehouse 0-3, Galles 0-3, Whitham 0-2, Mason 0-1, Nixon 0-1). Turnovers: Valley 12, Fort Dodge 20. Total fouls: Valley 13, Fort Dodge 14.
It was a homecoming of sorts for a pair of Tiger coaches. New VHS head coach Jeff Horner returned to his former stomping grounds, where he was a standout guard with Mason City before becoming an all-Big Ten guard at the University of Iowa. One of Horner's assistants is Jack Brownlee - an ex-Hawkeye himself and Fort Dodge native who captained St. Edmond to a Class 2A state championship in 2000.
Horner and Brownlee watched their team, paced by Northwestern-bound senior Kale Abrahamson, win even without the services of Peter Jok. The junior three-star Rivals prospect, who has already received an offer from Iowa, is out with an injury.
The 6-foot-7 Abrahamson wasn't spectacular from the floor, making just 4 of 12 shots while being guarded by 6-foot Dodger sophomore JC Hatcher. Abrahamson did sink all nine of his free throws, though, to finish with a game-high 19 points.
Ahead 16-10 in the early stages of the second quarter, Valley reeled off 17 consecutive points and never looked back. Fort Dodge turned the ball over 15 times in the first half alone.
Senior Jericho Habben paced FDSH with a career-high 15 points, but no other Dodger reached double figures in scoring.
''Jericho had a very good all-around game,'' Daniel said. ''He's pretty much the only one who didn't seem overwhelmed at any one point in time. I think a lot of our players got caught up in the moment of facing the No. 3 team, given it was Valley and Jeff Horner is their coach.
''We were very impatient with the ball. We'd either take a three-pointer that would be there any time instead of trying to get a better look, or we'd force a bad pass. It's just part of the learning and growing process, but we also can't just keep using that as an excuse, especially when we're not facing ranked teams down the road.''
Fort Dodge hosts Des Moines Lincoln (1-3) on Tuesday before visiting Mason City (2-2) Friday.
Contact Eric Pratt at (515) 573-2141, or by e-mail at email@example.com