Third time’s a charm for Dodger boys

WAUKEE – Mason City swept the Fort Dodge boys basketball team during the regular season.

The Dodgers got their payback when it mattered most here Monday.

Using the substate round as an opportunity to get its season back on track, Fort Dodge (10-11 overall) eliminated the Mohawks (10-12) by a final score of 60-47 inside the Waukee Fieldhouse.

Senior Kyle Beisch scored 22 points and junior Solomon Clayton added 19 for the Dodgers, who had stumbled through the second half of the year after a 5-2 start to the campaign. None of that – which included a pair of inauspicious results against their arch rivals – mattered yesterday. FDSH made the third time the charm in a big way.

“We knew we could get (a win) this time around if we just did a better job of executing and finishing,” said Clayton, who scored 14 of his points in the second half. “We let one slip away up there (earlier this month, when the Dodgers lost a 38-30 fourth-quarter lead), but we used that as motivation to close this game out instead of letting it happen again.”

Fort Dodge was an efficient 12 of 16 from the floor in the first half, but the Dodgers led by only four points at halftime. Mason City went back on top at 31-30 on a traditional three-point play by point guard Kyle Lang with 6:07 left in the third quarter, but the FDSH defense locked the Mohawks down for the rest of the period to gain the upper-hand for good.

A 9-0 run to end the quarter over the final six-plus minutes – highlighted by a vicious Clayton tomahawk dunk that brought a partisan Dodger crowd to its feet – had Fort Dodge in the driver’s seat. Beisch followed Clayton’s southpaw stuff with a traditional three-point play moments later, and a pair of Clayton free throws made it 39-31 heading into the fourth.

“Our defensive commitment in the second half – especially in that third quarter – was absolutely the difference,” Dodger head coach Tom Daniel said. “I was very, very proud of our guys for the energy they brought to both ends of the court. Defense is a must come tournament time. Start to finish, this was our best defensive effort in a long time.”

Fort Dodge pushed the advantage to 50-37 on a steal and layup by Beisch with 3:35 remaining in regulation. The Mohawks did score the next six points, but a 10-4 Dodger run the rest of the way – which included a 8-for-10 performance at the charity stripe – pushed the final margin of victory to double digits.

“We knew this was the one (in the season series) that was going to count,” Beisch said. “At this point, (the first two games) only mattered if we didn’t learn from them and get better because of what happened.

“We made mental mistakes before, both against them and in other (second-half) losses. I thought we were mentally tougher (Monday), and played with more consistent energy and focus.”

Senior Sam Kolacia also reached double figures with 10 points. Daniel praised Kolacia’s floor game, and also lauded the efforts of senior guard Jordan Rasmuson.

“Kyle had a solid game, and Solomon took his to another level after halftime,” Daniel said. “But it’s not just about our leading scorers. Sam did a really nice job of being a steady senior hand, and Jordan played his role to perfection. He defended really well and didn’t try to do anything outside of his comfort zone offensively.

“I’ve always said that good teams have players who know and embrace their roles. Not everyone can be a big scorer, or a heavy-volume shooter. Top to bottom, our guys really did that well (last night). Now the important thing is to find a way to keep it going and carry it over into Hoover.”

The Dodgers get a rematch with the top-ranked Huskies (19-2) on Friday at Hoover in a Substate 2 semifinal. Fort Dodge dropped a 62-56 decision there last Friday.