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MOMENTUM SWING

Clear Lake uses huge run to put away Dogder boys

-Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Ty Adams of Fort Dodge shoots around Clear Lake on Tuesday

For nearly an entire half here on Tuesday, the outmanned and undersized Fort Dodge boys basketball team fought tooth and nail with one of the better programs in Class 3A.

The Dodgers proved to themselves they could sustain — not just feign — success for a respectable stretch against a top-flight opponent. Head coach Willie Williams will try his best to build from there and not worry as much about the rest of the contest, which saw Clear Lake catch fire and pull away from FDSH for a 66-30 victory.

Williams’s squad was right there with the Lions all the way through the first quarter and for most of the second period. There were four ties in the opening eight minutes, and seven lead changes over a high-energy ensuing stretch. A basket by junior Drake Warland put the Dodgers up 19-18 with 2:55 remaining until the intermission.

That’s when things started to unravel for Fort Dodge in its 2023-24 home opener.

Clear Lake closed the half on an 11-0 run, and the snowball turned into an avalanche as the Lions then scored the first 26 points of the third quarter. The Dodgers had gone over 10 minutes of court time without a point, and Clear Lake went from shooting less than 40 percent from the floor to making layups, three-pointers and everything in between.

“We just have to keep fighting,” Williams said. “We did it that whole first quarter. We did it for almost the (entire second period). I was really proud of how they came out and battled. It wasn’t just for a good (burst) — they proved how competitive they can be for a long period of time. But we also learned, painfully, what happens if we don’t keep our intensity level up.”

The Lions, who return three starters and two top reserves from last season’s 22-2 ballclub, were bigger, older and just plain better. Junior Thomas Meyer, a 6-foot-6 post player who averaged 14.6 points and 7.2 rebounds a year ago, had a double-double and was one of four Clear Lake starters in double figures with 12 points. Senior Cael Stephany had 13 points, with Titan Schmitt and Dylan Litzel adding 11 points each.

All five Lion starters are at least six-feet tall, with Meyer and Litzel (6-4) offering the most size. Fort Dodge, meanwhile, starts three guards at 5-9 or smaller.

Compounding the issue was the loss of Dodger starters Cade Westerhoff and Jase Nekvinda to injury in the season opener at Boone the night before. Westerhoff, who had a team-best 16 points on Monday, was in a walking boot and is expected to miss at least two weeks. Nekvinda suffered a likely concussion and is out indefinitely.

“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves, though, because (opponents) won’t,” Williams said. “We got stops on defense, steals, forced some turnovers…but that all went away (during the long drought). Someone has to step up and make a play, and it usually starts on the defensive end. Every possession of every game is important; we don’t have (the manpower) to do anything but give our all. We saw what we can do (in the first half) if we commit ourselves to that (mentality).”

Sophomore Tytrell Mosley scored nine of his 11 points in the first half for the Dodgers. Junior Drake Warland added nine.

Fort Dodge made only two of its 16 attempts from behind the three-point line and turned the ball over 19 times. After starting 1-for-10 from distance, the Lions were 5 of 8 in the second half.

Clear Lake’s bench out-scored the short-handed Dodger reserves, 19-0.

Fort Dodge returns to action on Friday, hosting Ames for a 7:45 p.m. tip. The Little Cyclones were a Class 4A state tournament qualifier last winter.

CLEAR LAKE 66, FORT DODGE 30

Clear Lake — Cael Stephany 5-12 0-0 13, Thomas Meyer 6-7 0-0 12, Titan Schmitt 3-7 4-4 11, Dylan Litzel 4-4 3-4 11, Gavin Anderson 0-3 0-0 0, Jordan Ainley 2-3 0-0 6, Trevor Theobald 1-3 3-4 5, Alex Kerr 1-2 1-2 3, Gage Larson 1-3 0-0 2, Cade Dilllavou 1-4 0-0 2, Samuel Howland 0-0 1-2 1, Henry Bunn 0-1 0-0 0, Taylor Plagge 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 24-54 12-16 66.

Fort Dodge — Tytrell Mosley 5-8 0-0 11, Drake Warland 4-16 0-0 9, Carter Woodruff 2-7 2-2 6, Jackson McQuillen 0-2 2-2 2, Ty Adams 1-6 0-0 2, Hayden Zuspann 0-2 0-0 0, Kauner Jensen 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 12-42 4-4 30.

Quarter scores: Tied 12-12; Clear Lake led 29-19, 56-22. Three-point goals: Clear Lake 6-18 (Stephany 3-9, Ainley 2-3, Schmitt 1-3, Anderson 0-1, Dillavou 0-1, Plagge 0-1); Fort Dodge 2-16 (Mosley 1-2, Warland 1-8, Adams 0-3, Zuspann 0-2, Woodruff 0-1). Turnovers: Clear Lake 10, Fort Dodge 19. Total fouls: Clear Lake 10, Fort Dodge 18.

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