Dodger girls fall to No. 11 Rams

-Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Taelor Lessmeier of Fort Dodge shoots over Southeast Polk Rylie Kruse on Tuesday

The gauntlet known as the first half of the Fort Dodge girls basketball team’s season came to a close last night with the latest loss to another ranked opponent.

Playing their third rated foe in a row, and the fourth already this year, the Dodgers dropped a 67-48 decision to No. 11 (Class 5A) Southeast Polk in the FDSH gym.

Fort Dodge (2-7 overall) came into the game following consecutive road losses to No. 8 Waukee and No. 7 Dowling.

Senior Taelor Lessmeier nearly tripled her season average. She scored a career-high 20 points to lead the Dodgers, who trailed 40-15 at the half, but used a 19-point third quarter to keep things close for a while against the Rams (8-1).

“Sometimes we don’t come in with the right attitude,” said Dodger Coach Julius Michalik. “Our body language and attitude wasn’t right in the first half and we were down 20. We have five seniors who have been around the game and we asked them at halftime if they wanted to be a team that competes or be a team that just doesn’t try. We really played better in the second half. We just need to have a better attitude.”

Lessmeier, who was averaging just 7.4 points per game, scored 14 in the second half. Shareece Smith added nine for the Dodgers.

“When we play with our heads right we are a tough team,” said Michalik. “But at times, we just flip a switch and all of a sudden we’re down. That’s the hardest part for us coaches to figure out.”

Freshman Grace Larkins led the Rams with 22 points. Rylie Kruse, another freshman, added 16 off the bench and Liza Sutten had 13.

The Rams used their depth to put a full-court press on the Dodgers early and that led to 19 turnovers, though most came in the first half. SEP played 10 players and often subbed five at a time.

Fort Dodge was without reserves Olivia Camamo and Ebonee Altman, who were both battling illness. Michalik went with his starters for the bulk of the first half.

SEP never trailed, taking a 7-0 lead before the Dodgers scored. The Dodgers got it back to 12-8 with 1:50 to go in the first quarter, but Rams’ coach Tracy Dailey called a timeout that sparked a 28-4 run that made it 40-12 just before halftime.

Beth Murman hit a three at the buzzer for the Dodgers to make it 40-15 at the break.

The Dodgers were only able to outscore SEP 19-17 in the third period, getting nine from Lessmeier. Fort Dodge never got closer than 14 in the second half.

Fort Dodge returns to the court Jan. 2 at rival Mason City for a CIML Iowa Conference game.

Southeast Polk 67, Fort Dodge 48

Southeast Polk – Liza Sutten 5-8 0-0 13, Grace Larkins 8-19 6-9 22, Sami Albertson 1-6 6-8 8, Shiloh McCool 3-6 0-0 6, Abby Sutten 0-4 0-0 0, Riley Mack 0-0 0-0 0, Rylie Kruse 5-8 1-2 16, Jessie Stuart 0-0 0-0 0, Jaycie Elliott 0-0 0-0 0, Kadence Williams 0-1 2-2 2. Totals: 22-42 15-21 67.

Fort Dodge – Raeya Love 1-9 2-4 5, Shareece Smith 2-11 3-4 9, Beth Murman 3-4 0-0 8, Taelor Lessmeier 9-15 0-0 20, Liza Van Zyl 3-4 0-0 6, Morgan Beisch 0-0 0-0 0, Tatum Lundberg 0-0 0-0 0, Jacy Daniel 0-0 0-0 0, Makla Naylor 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-43 5-8 48.

Three-point goals: SEP 8-16 (Liza Sutten 3-4, Larkins 0-1, Albertson 0-1, Abby Sutten 0-2, Kruse 5-8); Fort Dodge 7-20 (Love 1-7, Smith 2-6, Murman 2-3, Lessmeier 2-4).

Quarter scores: SEP led 18-8, 40-15, 51-34.

Total fouls: SEP 7, Fort Dodge 16.