Sixth-rated Johnston tops FD girls

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Senior Liza Van Zyl drives for Fort Dodge on Monday night against Johnston. For more photos, please visit

As the regular season winds down and the postseason approaches, coaches tend to look how their team fares a second time around against an opponent.

The Fort Dodge girls showed marked improvement vs. No. 6 (Class 5A) Johnston here on Monday night, falling inside the Dodger gym, 68-58.

Earlier this year, the Dragons (18-3 overall, 8-2 in CIML Iowa Conference) picked up a convincing 74-39 victory on their home floor.

“We played much better in all areas,” FDSH head coach Julius Michalik said. “We just had trouble in the third quarter and with allowing their guards to penetrate and shoot from three.”

Fort Dodge (4-17, 2-8) honored its six seniors, and the group stepped up on the court. Liza Van Zyl had 14 points, six rebounds and two blocks. Beth Murman scored 13, Taelor Lessmeier had 12 points and five boards, and Shareece Smith recorded six points, a game-high 10 rebounds and five steals.

Van Zyl, Murman, Lessmeier, Smith, Raeya Love and Makla Naylor all played their final game at home. Love and Naylor each scored three points.

“I was glad we were able to send those seniors out with a strong performance,” Michalik said. “They’ve meant a lot to this program over the past few years, and deserved a good showing.”

Johnston, who has won five in a row since back-to-back losses to third-ranked West Des Moines Dowling and No. 5 Southeast Polk by a combined four points late last month, was led by Maya McDermott. The sophomore guard scored 24 and also had five steals.

Regan Nesheim added 14 points, Jenna Johnson had 13 and Maddie Mock 10. McDermott and Johnson combined to make seven 3-pointers.

The Dragons held an eight-point lead at halftime after stringing together a 7-2 run. That carried over into the third quarter, as they went up 43-26 on the heels of a 9-0 burst.

“We had that same kind of trouble scoring in a stretch (midway through the game vs. Ankeny Centennial last week),” Michalik said. “Against good teams, you just can’t go through those scoring droughts.”

Fort Dodge narrowed the gap down to 12 in the fourth, but Johnston was able to lean on McDermott and Mock, as the 10th-graders scored 13 in the final eight minutes.

Freshman Cheyenne Miller-Hameed scored seven points off the bench for the Dodgers, including a halfcourt buzzer-beater to end the contest.

Fort Dodge opens regional play on Wednesday when they head to Sioux City East. The winner meets Dowling on Saturday in West Des Moines.


Fort Dodge — Shareece Smith 1-7 4-5 6, Beth Murman 5-11 2-2 13, Taelor Lessmeier 5-10 0-0 12, Liza Van Zyl 5-12 0-0 14, Makla Naylor 1-3 0-0 3, Jacy Daniel 0-0 0-0 0, Raeya Love 1-4 0-0 3, Ebonee Altman 0-0 0-0 0, Cheyenne Miller-Hameed 1-1 4-4 7. Totals: 19-51 15-19 58.

Johnston — Maya McDermott 8-14 3-4 24, Macy Thompson 1-2 0-2 2, Jennah Johnson 4-10 3-4 13, Maddie Mock 5-10 0-2 10, Regan Nesheim 6-9 2-2 14, Alma Hodzic 2-4 0-0 4, Brooke McKee 0-1 0-0 0, Aubrey McCombs 0-0 0-0 0, Natalie Kahre 0-0 0-0 0, Kayla Frickenstein 0-2 0-0 0, Kassie Pietsch 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 26-62 9-18 68.

Quarter scores: Johnston 16-11, 34-26, 50-36. Three-point goals: Fort Dodge 5-10 (Smith 0-1, Murman 1-2, Lessmeier 0-2, Van Zyl 1-1, Naylor 1-2, Love 1-1, Miller-Hameed 1-1); Johnston 7-22 (McDermott 5-7, Johnson 2-6, Mock 0-3, Nead 0-3, Hodzic 0-1, McKee 0-1, Frickenstein 0-1). Total rebounds: Fort Dodge 34, Johnston 38. Steals: Fort Dodge 8, Johnston 14. Blocked shots: Fort Dodge 3, Johnston 4. Team fouls: Fort Dodge 14, Johnston 16. Turnovers: Fort Dodge 23, Johnston 19.