Fort Dodge's hopes of closing out conference play in the win column never quite materialized here Friday night.
Despite pushing Ames to the limit from start to finish, the Dodger boys basketball team (6-12 overall, 3-3 CIC Northern Division) was edged in a tight 61-59 decision at the FDSH gym.
"I thought our effort was much better than anytime in the last week (the Dodgers fell at Southeast Polk Monday and fifth-ranked (Class 4A) Sioux City East on Tuesday)," Fort Dodge head coach Tom Daniel said. "We've been in this position enough before, and our guys got back up off the mat and responded (last evening).
"There are no secrets between us and Ames. We figured it would be another close game that would come down to small details. The frustrating thing is we just couldn't capitalize on our opportunities."
Juniors JC Hatcher and Blake Wilder each delivered 18 points for the Dodgers, combining to shoot 16-for-30 from the field. Fort Dodge committed just two turnovers, while dishing out 19 assists.
"To have that kind of assist-to-turnover ratio and still lose is obviously disappointing," said Daniel. "Size is always going to be an issue for us, but I thought we executed pretty well offensively and made some good hustle plays on 50-50 balls."
AMES 61, FORT DODGE 59
Ames - Sam Straub 10-17 6-8 27, Nate Munn 1-2 2-2 5, Sam Rathe 0-2 2-2 2, Spencer Shane 1-2 2-4 4, Justin Sloter 7-10 3-4 17, Shawn Lenz 3-5 0-0 6, Tony Davis 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 22-40 15-21 61.
Fort Dodge - JC Hatcher 7-16 0-0 18, Tyler Vaughn 4-12 0-0 9, Andrew Stover 3-7 0-0 7, Blake Wilder 9-14 0-0 18, Zach Martinson 2-6 0-0 4, Jacob Porter 0-0 0-0 0, Krunal Thakor 1-4 0-0 3, Marquan Clayton 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 26-61 0-0 59.
Quarter scores: Fort Dodge led 12-10, Ames led 26-22, 42-39. Three-point goals: Ames 2-11 (Straub 1-3, Munn 1-2, Rathke 0-1, Shane 0-1, Sloter 0-2, Davis 0-2); Fort Dodge 7-18 (Hatcher 4-7, Vaughn 1-5, Stover 1-2, Wilder 0-1, Thakor 1-3). Total rebounds: Ames 29, Fort Dodge 23. Turnovers: Ames 13, Fort Dodge 2. Total fouls: Ames 11, Fort Dodge 21.
As a team, the Dodgers fired at a 42.6 percent (26-for-61) clip from the field, including 7 of 18 from outside the arc. For the second time this season against the Little Cyclones, however, Fort Dodge failed to make a single trip to the charity stripe.
"I don't know if our lack of free throws is due to not being aggressive or what," Daniel said. "Going two games against the same opponent without taking a foul shot is just crazy."
Up by two points entering the second quarter, the Dodgers were outscored 16-10 over the next eight minutes and failed to regain the lead. Tyler Vaughn's jumper at the 1:46 mark of the third briefly tied the contest, but Ames answered right back with a mini 6-0 burst of its own.
"I thought the game was lost in the second quarter," said Daniel. "We started out slow and took a long time to get settled back into the flow."
Another highlight for FDSH came on Andrew Stover's made desperation 80-foot heave at the end of the third period.
Sam Straub (27) and Justin Sloter (17) were the offensive catalysts for the league champion Little Cyclones (11-10, 6-0), who prevailed over the Dodgers for a fourth consecutive meeting. Straub also grabbed a team-high 11 boards.
Ames finished 15-for-21 from the free throw line.
"Ames is such a hard matchup for us," Daniel said. "We had to zone them (defensively), but Straub can really shoot it so well from the outside, too."
Looking to snap a three-game slide, the Dodgers host Humboldt (14-5) on Monday.