NEWTON - Road games have been a challenge all season long for the Fort Dodge boys basketball team.
Monday night turned out be a rare exception, as the opportunistic Dodgers (5-17 overall) escaped with a hard-fought 52-51 triumph over Newton in a Class 4A substate quarterfinal.
With the win, FDSH improved to 1-10 away from home this winter and in the process snapped a five-game overall slide.
"It wasn't a work of art by any means, but 16 (4A) teams are headed home after (last night) and we're not one of them," Fort Dodge head coach Tom Daniel said. "We haven't been in many situations like this before, so I was just real proud of how our guys were able to execute at the end."
In a see-saw clash that featured a combined 16 ties and lead changes in the second half alone, the Dodgers used a clutch hoop from sophomore JC Hatcher and two timely free throws out of classmate Zach Martinson to fend off the scrappy Cardinals (9-12) down the stretch. FDSH also clamped down defensively in the waning moments, forcing Newton into a pivotal turnover and a well-contested miss from outside the arc.
"(Andrew) Stover didn't score any points, but he came up with a huge steal late," said Daniel, whose squad posted a 51-49 overtime victory against CIML Iowa Conference rival Mason City in their postseason opener a year ago for the program's first postseason victory in five seasons. "Credit our guys for stepping up and performing in their roles. We didn't get too rattled and stayed patient (offensively) in a pretty tough environment to play."
FORT DODGE 52, NEWTON 51
Fort Dodge - JC Hatcher 5-8 4-5 14, Jericho Habben 2-4 0-0 4, Tyler Vaughn 5-10 1-3 13, Sam Edwards 3-5 1-1 8, Zach Martinson 5-10 3-3 13, Andrew Stover 0-2 0-0 0, Austin Halligan 0-1 0-0 0, Parker Van Zyl 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 20-41 9-12 52.
Newton - Andrew Clements 2-10 0-0 4, Brian Rose 4-10 0-0 11, Shamus Baltisberger 7-11 2-3 19, Collin Reynolds 0-4 0-2 0, Scott Nilles 4-5 2-2 10, Tyler Wood 0-5 0-0 0, Michael Miller 1-1 0-0 2, Jesse Bates 2-5 1-2 5. T otals: 20-51 5-9 51.
Quarter scores: Fort Dodge led 15-8, Newton led 24-23, Fort Dodge led 37-33. Three-point goals: Fort Dodge 3-14 (Habben 0-2, Vaughn 2-5, Edwards 1-3, Martinson 0-3, Stover 0-1); Newton 6-22 (Clements 0-4, Rose 3-7, Baltisberger 3-6, Wood 0-4, Bates 0-1). Total rebounds: Fort Dodge 27, Newton 30. Turnovers: Fort Dodge 13, Newton 9. Total fouls: Fort Dodge 13, Newton 12.
Hatcher, a 6-foot sophomore guard, ignited the Dodgers with 14 points and five rebounds.
Martinson and junior Tyler Vaughn each added 13 points for Fort Dodge, which led by seven points entering the second quarter and was then outscored 16-8 over the next eight minutes. Martinson also pulled down six boards, while senior Sam Edwards collected eight points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
The Dodgers fired at a 48.8 percent ( 20-for-41) clip from the field.
"We only had four turnovers in the second half after being on pace for 20 at the half," Daniel said. "Our ability to take better care of the ball as the night went on was probably the difference."
Shamus Baltisberger delivered a game-high 19 points for the Cardinals, while Brian Rose tallied 11 and Scott Nilles had 10.
"Newton isn't the most athletic team we've seen, but they really do a nice job of pounding the boards," said Daniel.
Up next for the Dodgers is a 4A substate semifinal clash Friday at 10th-ranked Des Moines Roosevelt (16-5). Start time is 7 p.m. The Dodgers suffered a 61-45 setback to the Roughriders in their regular season finale last Friday.
Contact Josh Meyer at (515) 573-2141, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org