In the latest chapter of the Fort Dodge-Mason City rivalry, the Dodger boys rode a stingy defense and the energy from a near-capacity crowd to a 71-56 win over their longtime rivals in the Dodger gym Friday night.
Fort Dodge swept the season series from the Mohawks (4-13), but more importantly set the tone for what could be a possible post-season matchup when sub-state play begins in a few weeks.
"We played pretty well," said Dodger Coach Tom Daniel, whose team moved to 10-7 overall and 4-1 in the CIC Northern Division. "We really pushed the ball well. When they scored we were attacking. We left some points out there, but when you score 71 points and you know you left some points on the floor, you feel pretty good.
"It was a little chippy out there at first. There's definitely some bad blood. I think that carries over from football," said Daniel. "I guess it's like that in every sport. You just have to make sure your emotions are under control. The best answer is to show it on the scoreboard."
A raucous crowd, decked out in pink for the annual "Pink Out Night" backed the Dodgers all game. When it was clear the game was in hand, the students chanted the traditional reminders of past victories in the long-standing series, bringing up football, baseball, wrestling, soccer and even bowling. Some students even wore pictures of the Decker Trophy on their backs. That of course is the trophy the football teams play for each year which Mason City has never possessed.
The win was also important as the Dodgers chase a league title. After a rare week off, they'll hit the floor next Friday at home against Ames with a chance to grab a share of the Northern Division title.
Fort Dodge 71, Mason City 56
Fort Dodge Krunal Thakor 3-7 2-4 8, JC Hatcher 6-19 2-4 17, Kyle Beisch 2-5 0-0 4, Blake Wilder 10-11 2-2 22, Zach Martinson 5-12 1-1 13, Andrew Stover 2-3 0-0 5, Sam Kolacia 0-2 0-0 0, Marquan Clayton 1-2 0-0 2, Alex Jackson 0-0 0-0 0, Kyle Hanson 0-1, 0-0 0, Thomas Hartley 0-0 0-0 0, Cody Ellis 0-1 0-0 0, Cody Rivers 0-0 0-0 0, Ben Ahlers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-63 7-11 71.
Mason City Austin Hammen 1-5 1-3 4, Matt Danielson 1-6 1-4 3, Matt Meyer 4-8 3-6 11, Alex Rier 0-0 0-0 0, Wyatt Cooper 6-10 3-6 15, Jared Lichman 6-8 1-2 13, Jareese Williams 1-4 3-4 5, Shanden Green 2-2 0-0 4, Quentin Jones 0-1 0-0 0, Tristan Bernhard 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-44 12-25 56.
Quarter scores: Fort Dodge led 16-11, 35-24, 56-41.
Three-point shots: Fort Dodge 6-25 (Thakor 0-2, Hatcher 3-10, Beisch 0-3, Martinson 2-6, Stover 1-2, Kolacia 0-2). Mason City 2-13 (Hammen 1-5, Danielson 0-3, Meyer 1-1, Cooper 0-1, Williams 0-2, Jones 0-1).
Total fouls: Fort Dodge 21, Mason City 14.
"This group has worked too hard to settle for second place," said Daniel, whose team dropped a 61-57 decision in Ames on Jan. 24. "This has to be a good week (off) for us. We'll develop a solid game plan for Ames and we'll have to execute it."
Blake Wilder led the Dodgers with 22 points on 10 of 11 shooting. He was also 2-for-2 from the line. JC Hatcher overcame a cold start to finish with 17 and Zach Martinson added 13 points, all in the third quarter as the Dodgers pulled away.
Wyatt Cooper led Mason City with 15 points. Jared Lichman added 13 and Matt Meyer 11. The Mohawks managed just 44 shots from the field and missed more free throws (13) than they made (12).
"I think a lot of that had to do with our pace," said Daniel. "We tried to push and push. It's nice that we have enough people coming off the bench that we can do that. Our bench minutes were big tonight. Marquan (Clayton) had some quality minutes and Andrew Stover did a nice job coming off the bench for us for the first time. We wanted some more experience coming off the bench and it was impressive to me that he accepted that role."
Fort Dodge had to battle with some foul trouble early as Kyle Beisch, who was making his first start, and Wilder each got three fouls with more than five minutes to play in the half.
But with some bench players in the game, the Dodgers managed to push the lead to double figures, getting a three-pointer from Stover with 3:22 in the half for their biggest lead at 33-20.
The Dodgers led 35-24 at the half and pushed it out to 17 points at 49-32 on a three-pointer from Martinson and a bucket from Wilder. After Mason City scored five straight, the Dodgers answered with a 7-2 run and it was 56-39.
Mason City tried to put together one final run in the fourth, outscoring the Dodgers 7-2 to cut the lead to 59-46, but again the Dodgers answered with buckets by Hatcher, Wilder and Beisch and it was 64-48 and pretty much over.
Next Friday's game will be the final one at home for Fort Dodge in the regular season. The Dodgers finish with trips to Humboldt and Des Moines North.
Daniel, though, said he hopes what he's hearing is true and the Dodgers will get to host Mason City in a 4A sub-state opener on Feb. 24. Sub state pairings should be announced sometime next week.