Dodgers deal MHS its own 1-point loss

FORT DODGE – Two evenly matched Central Iowa Conference Northern Division boys’ basketball teams played to a one-point game for the second time in as many meetings.

Friday night, however, was Fort Dodge’s time.

The Dodgers trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half but marched all the way back behind junior JC Hatcher for a 64-63 victory in conference play.

Hatcher scored a game-high 20 points, including an emphatic steal and dunk that further ignited the Fort Dodge rally in the third quarter.

Marshalltown led 38-22 in the second before the Dodgers (5-9, 2-2) ended the first half on a 7-2 spurt, and then Fort Dodge knotted it up at 50-all with a 21-10 third-quarter advantage.

It took a few free throws, and one last key play by Hatcher, for the Dodgers to fend off MHS (5-12, 2-2).

Fort Dodge led 56-51 with 2:40 left to play before a 3-pointer by Hunter Hillygus cut the gap to two. Tyler Kluver got a layup and made a foul shot for a 3-point play that led the Bobcats to within 59-57 with 1:15 left, and Blake Gimbel’s 3-pointer cut the Dodger lead to 61-60.

With the length of the court to go, Fort Dodge went for it all with a home-run pass over the top of the MHS defense and Hatcher scored a layup and was fouled. He made the freebie for a four-point lead, making sure Kluver’s final 3-pointer wouldn’t be enough to catch the Dodgers.

“Doggone it, you know, but you can’t let one game or one loss define your season,” MHS head coach Scott Smith said. “We played the game right tonight, it was a great environment, but unfortunately we didn’t come out on the front end of it.

“It was a great basketball game, intense with a lot of ups and downs, and I’m real proud of the kids’ effort. Fort Dodge came out and played really well in that second half, and Hatcher got loose.”

Behind Hatcher’s game-high 20, Blake Wilder had 13 points and Tyler Vaughn 11 for the Dodgers, who had lost 53-52 inside the Roundhouse on Dec. 7.

Marshalltown was led by Kluver’s career-high 17 points. Gimbel added 16 while battling through an injury, and Blake Judkins finished with 10 points. Hillygus chipped in eight while Riley Wirth, Mason McCarville and Aaron Hauser each knocked down a 3-pointer for the Bobcats.

MHS resumes play on Tuesday, going back on the road to face Class 4A No. 6 Ankeny.