Fresh start for Dodger boys

WAUKEE – The slate has been wiped clean.

The Fort Dodge boys basketball team doesn’t have to worry about its second-half record anymore, or the late leads it lost, or all the frustrating moments that turned a once-promising regular season into a 9-11 campaign.

Like everyone else, the Dodgers have the opportunity to catch a second wind at the perfect time. The substate round begins here tonight, as Fort Dodge takes on Mason City (10-11) in the Waukee High gym.

Game time is set for 6:30 p.m. in this Substate 2 quarterfinal. The winner advances to face top-ranked (Class 4A) Des Moines Hoover on Friday at Hoover.

”It’s our second season – our second chance,” FDSH head coach Tom Daniel said. ”Some teams ride a wave of momentum into the tournament, hoping to keep that alive. Some teams need an opportunity to start from scratch. We’re kind of in (the latter) boat right now.

”I’m excited for this opportunity, and I believe our guys are as well. Every time we face Mason City, it’s like a playoff game. We won’t have to manufacture a sense of urgency because of that, and neither will they.”

The Dodgers lost by five points in both earlier meetings with the Mohawks, though the final score is about all the contests had in common. Mason City led almost throughout in the FDSH gym before hanging on to win; the rematch saw the Dodgers take an eight-point advantage into the fourth quarter before the Mohawks staged a late comeback.

”We had our chances both times – they brought more energy than we did in the first one, and we simply didn’t execute down the stretch (at Mason City),” Daniel said. ”The common theme, though, was the little things. They took care of them and we didn’t.

”We’re not going to surprise each other. There are no secrets at this point. Given the circumstances, it’s going to be about which team plays with more confidence and effort.”

Senior Jareese Williams (14.9 points), senior Austin Miller (12.4) and junior Kyle Lang (11.1) pace the Mohawks, who dropped their regular season finale at Waukee and have lost six of nine overall.

Fort Dodge counters with senior Kyle Beisch (15.7), senior Sam Kolacia (11.2), and junior Solomon Clayton (10.8). The Dodgers lost a 15-point fourth quarter lead in a home setback against Johnston last Thursday, then fought hard in a 62-56 loss at Hoover on Friday.

”We really need everyone to be on the same page and accepting of our roles,” Daniel said. ”All of us. Working together and for each other – that’s how you advance in the postseason.

”There will be no home-court advantage here, and no confusion about what the team across from us does. I hope we take this challenge and make the most of it.”

Waukee (14-7) faces Des Moines East (5-16) in the other substate contest here tonight at 8 p.m. That winner heads to Ames (14-7) on Friday in the semifinal on the opposite side of the bracket.