Baskets were few and far between for both Fort Dodge and Humboldt here Tuesday.
As a result, free-throw shooting ultimately determined the outcome - leading the Dodger girls to their first victory in six weeks.
Sophomore guard Lani Van Zyl scored a career-high 18 points as Fort Dodge grinded out a 34-28 non-conference victory over the Wildcats, avenging a loss from this matchup a year ago.
Van Zyl calmly sank 7 of 9 foul shots in the fourth quarter as the Dodgers (3-7 overall) held off Humboldt (4-7) and snapped a seven-game losing streak. Fort Dodge made just eight field goals in the win, but swished 15 of 21 at the charity stripe - where the Wildcats were only 8-for-23.
''Our offense has been struggling, so we know our defensive effort and intensity has to be a calling card,'' FDSH head coach Scott Timmerman said. ''It's the one thing you can always control. I thought we hustled after loose balls and did a good job of making them work for everything they got.
''They beat us here last season and had four starters coming back - just like us. So it's a positive step forward to get this one and break out of our slump. It wasn't pretty, but we'll definitely take it.''
FORT DODGE 34, HUMBOLDT 28
Fort Dodge - Lani Van Zyl 3-12 10-13 18, Mallory Kilian 1-5 5-6 8, Tiana Mericle 1-3 0-0 2, Lexi Astor 0-3 0-0 0, Ashley Altman 0-6 0-0 0, Mariah Welter 2-3 0-3 4, Rachel Herrington 1-1 0-0 2. Fatima Newsome 0-0 0-0 0, Madi Bennett 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 8-33 15-21 34.
Humboldt - Lauren Friesth 3-12 0-1 8, Madison Thomas 1-7 3-8 5, Erica Lane 2-6 1-4 5, April Jones 2-6 0-0 4, Kinzie Wright 0-3 4-10 4, Kessa Kuyper 1-5 0-0 2, Karlee Peyton 0-1 0-0 0, Sarah Peters 0-1 0-0 0, Brittney Nilles 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 9-41 8-23 28.
Quarter scores: Tied 9-9; Fort Dodge led 13-12, 23-16. Three-point goals: Fort Dodge 3-13 (Van Zyl 2-9, Kilian 1-2, Altman 0-2); Humboldt 2-9 (Friesth 2-7, Thomas 0-1, Wright 0-1). Turnovers: Fort Dodge 28, Humboldt 25. Total fouls: Fort Dodge 18, Humboldt 17.
The Dodgers prevailed despite hitting only a single field goal in the entire fourth quarter and nearly squandering a nine-point lead. Humboldt got within 29-28 with 49 seconds remaining, but Van Zyl and fellow sophomore Mallory Kilian combined to knock down 5 of 6 free throws the rest of the way to seal the deal.
''We're putting a lot of pressure on Lani - to be both the leading ball-handler and a top scorer for us,'' Timmerman said. ''Sometimes it's easy to forget that she's just a sophomore. I thought she showed tremendous composure at the free throw line, especially given how many one-and-one situations she had when the game got close at the end.
''We really appreciate her motor and competitive spirit. It was great to see us execute so well at the foul line (Fort Dodge was only shooting 54 percent there coming in).''
The contest was marred by turnovers and long field-goal droughts. Fort Dodge went nearly seven minutes without a bucket in the first half, yet led 13-12 at the intermission. There were a total of seven points scored in the second quarter.
The Wildcats didn't make a basket from the 3:23 mark in the first period until there was 5:22 left in the third - nearly 14 minutes of action. Yet they clawed back from being down 23-14 thanks to five straight points from leading scorer Lauren Friesth midway through the fourth quarter.
With three minutes left in regulation, the score and turnover count stood as mirror images: the Dodgers had 25 points and 25 turnovers, with Humboldt sitting on 22 and 22, respectively.
Fort Dodge returns to action here Friday, facing Urbandale (1-10) at 6:15 p.m. The J-Hawks lost 56-21 at No. 4 Southeast Polk last night.