The Fort Dodge boys basketball team had Tuesday's game against eighth-ranked (Class 4A) Waukee marked on their calendar as an early litmus test.
Unfortunately, the Dodgers caught the Warriors at the wrong time and instead saw them at their very best.
Waukee used both its dominant size and a rediscovered shooting touch to overwhelm Fort Dodge 79-55 here last night. The Warriors made 63 percent of their field goals, bouncing back from their first loss of the season in a big way.
''They put on a clinic,'' Dodger head coach Tom Daniel said. ''When you go 6-foot-10, 6-8 and 6-7 in the frontcourt and then knock down perimeter shots the way they did - there wouldn't be many teams in the state that would have challenged them (Tuesday). They got beat (by No. 5 Ankeny Centennial last Friday) and played with a purpose and much higher level of energy against us. No question about it. I was very impressed.
''With that being said, I was incredibly disappointed in our effort overall. They hit us with a few big blows early and instead of fighting back, we folded. We aren't ready to close that gap yet and challenge elite competition. That's not saying it can't happen down the road, but it has to start with a desire and a mental toughness that we just didn't show. You can't manufacture that passion. You have to hate to lose, and I'm not sure all of our guys hate to lose right now.''
Waukee (4-1 overall) did just about everything right offensively against Fort Dodge (3-2). Before emptying their bench midway through the fourth quarter, the Warriors were 29 of 40 from the floor (73 percent) and 10 of 13 from behind the three-point line (77 percent) in building a lead that topped out at 33 points.
WAUKEE 79, FORT DODGE 55
Waukee - Anthony Nelson 9-12 2-3 20, Nate Gehring 7-8 2-4 16, Michael Winger 5-7 0-0 14, Michael Jacobson 4-8 1-2 11, Trevor Allen 2-2 0-0 6, Adam Rose 1-1 0-0 3, Parker Howe 1-1 0-0 3, Grant Frey 1-3 0-0 2, Drew Urban 1-1 0-0 2, Gavin Priest 0-0 1-2 1, A.J. Allen 0-2 1-2 1, Ted Crites 0-1 0-0 0, Kellan Overton 0-2 0-0 0, Nathan Keck 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 31-49 7-13 79.
Fort Dodge - JC Hatcher 7-13 1-3 19, Blake Wilder 5-7 0-0 10, Andrew Stover 2-5 4-4 9, Zach Martinson 2-7 0-0 6, Krunal Thakor 1-4 1-2 4, Sam Kolacia 1-2 0-0 2, Cody Rivers 1-1 0-0 2, Kyle Hanson 0-3 1-2 1, Kyle Beisch 0-1 1-3 1, Alex Jackson 0-0 1-2 1, Cody Ellis 0-1 0-0 0, Marquan Clayton 0-0 0-0 0, Thomas Hartley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-44 9-16 55.
Quarter scores: Waukee led 21-8, 39-22, 62-36. Three-point goals: Waukee 10-17 (Winger 4-6, Allen 2-2, Jacobson 2-3, Howe 1-1, Rose 1-1, Overton 0-2, Keck 0-1, Frey 0-1); Fort Dodge 8-22 (Hatcher 4-8, Martinson 2-4, Stover 1-1, Thakor 1-3, Hanson 0-3, Ellis 0-1, Beisch 0-1, Kolacia 0-1). Turnovers: Waukee 13, Fort Dodge 13. Total fouls: Waukee 23, Fort Dodge 17. Technical foul: Gehring.
Four of Waukee's starters reached double figures in scoring, led by 6-7 junior Anthony Nelson (20). Nate Gehring - a 6-10, 225-pound Pepperdine University recruit - added 16 points, including four thunderous dunks.
''We were overmatched physically in the post, and we knew that coming in,'' Daniel said of his Dodgers, who don't have a single player taller than 6-4 in their rotation. ''But then they get four three-pointers from (sophomore guard Michael) Winger, two from (junior guard Trevor) Allen (an all-state football player), two from (6-8 junior Michael) Jacobson - you try and pick your poison and hope they aren't hitting from the outside. They were making only 24 percent (from behind the arc) coming into this game, but they shot lights-out (last night).''
Senior guard JC Hatcher paced the Dodgers with 19 points, which moved him into 11th place on the school's career scoring charts. Hatcher also dished out six assists.
Blake Wilder added 10, while Andrew Stover finished with nine points, five assists and four rebounds.
''I thought Andrew played a solid all-around game. I was very pleased with his minutes,'' Daniel said. ''This is a gut-check for us. We got bullied on our home court. (The Warriors) had their A-game and were clicking on all cylinders. They deserve all the credit for that. But we lacked intensity and focus, which - in such a big spot - is troubling, especially given those are the things we can control.
''There needs to be a sense of urgency from us, and it has to start (Friday at Mason City) and carry us into the (two-week winter break).''
Fort Dodge held its second annual ''Silent Night'' holiday event in conjunction with the game, where fans were asked not to cheer until the Dodgers had scored their 10th point. Unfortunately for the home squad, that stretched into the second quarter, and by the time it happened, Waukee already led by 20.
FDSH immediately responded with a 7-0 run once the crowd came to life, but the Warriors quickly reeled off the next seven points as an answer and the Dodgers trailed by at least 17 the rest of the way.
Daniel's ballclub heads north to face Mason City (2-2) on Friday in a CIC Northern Division tilt. The Mohawks did not play last night.