The Fort Dodge boys learned a little more about themselves here Tuesday.
Although the Dodgers ultimately fell 65-56 to 10th-ranked (Class 4A) West Des Moines Dowling, head coach Tom Daniel saw the flashes of potential he's been looking for from his squad.
''Now the key is to sustain,'' Daniel said. ''We can't just be good in spurts. We can't execute one minute and then take the next play off. I'm encouraged by the fact that we were in a single-possession ballgame with a Top-10 team midway through the fourth quarter. While we showed the effort and intensity it's going to take to compete with and possibly beat an opponent of Dowling's caliber, there are still plenty of things we need to clean up and errors we must avoid if we're going to take that next step forward as a program.''
University of Iowa football recruit Jon Wisnieski scored 15 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter as the Maroons (2-0 overall) did just enough to keep the Dodgers (1-2) at bay. The 6-foot-5 Wisnieski camped out underneath and attempted 10 free throws in the last six minutes alone, almost single-handedly willing Dowling across the finish line with 12 consecutive points midway through the final period after being a virtual non-factor up until that point.
Junior guard Andrew Stover scored a career-high 17 points for short-handed FDSH, which fought tooth-and-nail despite being far from full-strength. The Dodgers climbed within 44-41 on a Blake Wilder putback with 5:42 left in regulation, but Wisnieski - an all-state Maroon tight end - took over and an 8-1 Dowling counter-run all but sealed the deal.
''Andrew was outstanding for us,'' Daniel said. ''He had to pick up the scoring pace because (the Maroons) defended (FDSH leading scorer) JC (Hatcher) well. I thought Blake did a really nice job, Tyler (Vaughn) gave us quality minutes when he could, and Austin (Halligan) showed a lot of fight and energy off the bench.''
DOWLING 65, FORT DODGE 56
West Des Moines Dowling - Jon Wisnieski 5-7 7-10 17, Peter Odia 5-10 4-6 15, Eric Austin 2-9 2-2 6, Grant Otte 1-3 2-2 4, Matthew Haack 1-6 0-2 2, Jack Green 4-6 1-2 10, Ted Brown 3-3 1-1 7, Trent Savage-Warren 1-4 0-0 2, Luke DeVenney 0-0 2-2 2, Riley Katich 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 22-48 19-27 65.
Fort Dodge - Andrew Stover 8-14 0-0 17, JC Hatcher 3-11 3-7 10, Blake Wilder 3-4 1-2 7, Krunal Thakor 1-4 0-0 3, Jake Porter 0-2 1-2 1, Tyler Vaughn 5-11 0-0 15, Austin Halligan 1-1 0-0 3, Marquan Clayton 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 21-48 5-11 56.
Quarter scores: Dowling led 17-13, 32-24, 41-34. Three-point goals: Fort Dodge 9-25 (Vaughn 5-10, Hatcher 1-6, Stover 1-5, Thakor 1-3, Halligan 1-1); Dowling 2-13 (Green 1-3, Odia 1-2, Austin 0-3, Haack 0-3, Savage-Warren 0-2). Turnovers: Dowling 10, Fort Dodge 13. Total fouls: Dowling 11, Fort Dodge 21.
Free-throw shooting continued to be an early-season bugaboo for the Dodgers, who were just 5 of 11 at the charity stripe Tuesday and are now 14-for-32 collectively on the year. The Maroons, meanwhile, went 11 of 18 in the fourth quarter alone and 19-for-27 overall.
Vaughn added 15 in a reserve role for Fort Dodge - all on three-point baskets. Vaughn has been limited by a heart condition recently, and his court time was forced to decrease significantly yesterday evening.
The Dodgers were also playing their final contest without junior Zach Martinson - the team's third-leading scorer a year ago - who will return Friday at Marshalltown.
Hatcher added 11, but was only 3 of 11 from the field and 3-for-7 at the line.
''This was a much better overall performance than (the loss at Des Moines North last Friday), especially given the fact that JC had an off-night and we had to go significant stretches without Tyler on the floor,'' Daniel said. ''But I talked to the kids about not 'settling' for being close against a Top-10 team. We're not about to hang our hats on moral victories or single-digit losses. This should motivate them to work that much harder so that we can get over the hump starting Friday at The Roundhouse.''