Fort Dodge thrived on second-chance opportunities.
The Bobcats' solution to that problem down the stretch was simple - don't allow Fort Dodge to get a shot off.
Forcing a four and a half minute scoring drought, the Marshalltown boys' basketball team overcame an 11-point third quarter deficit to squeeze past the Dodgers 53-52 in the Central Iowa Conference Northern Division opener for both squads at the Roundhouse Friday.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
Bobcat senior Blake Gimbel, with ball, is fouled on his way through the lane by Fort Dodge’s Blake Wilder, front, during the first half of Friday’s CIC Northern Division boys’ basketball game at the Roundhouse. Gimbel finished with 18 points in leading the Bobcats to their first win, 53-52, over the visiting Dodgers.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
Marshalltown’s Hunter Hillygus, right, puts up a floater in the lane over top of Fort Dodge defender Blake Wilder (25) during the second half of Friday’s CIC Northern Division showdown at the Roundhouse. Hillygus contributed seven points in the Bobcats’ 53-52 victory.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
"It was a gutty, gritty performance by our Bobcats tonight. Our senior captains, Blake Gimbel and Blake Judkins, were phenomenal leaders not just in talking to their teammates but the way they played - getting after loose balls, making big shots, making free throws," said Marshalltown coach Scott Smith.
"They had that look in their eye, they were not going to let this one slip away. It was a total team effort."
Not allowing a Dodger field goal - and rarely an attempt - during their over four minute defensive stand in the final frame, the Bobcats forced five steals and outscored Fort Dodge 11-0 over the span - delivering on the halftime challenge from their coach.
Marshalltown 53, Fort Dodge 52
FORT DODGE (2-3) - Thakor Krunal 0 0-0 0, JC Hatcher 6 3-4 18, Tyler Vaughn 1 0-0 3, Andrew Stover 4 0-0 10, Blake Wilder 5 0-0 10, Jake Porter 0 0-2 0, Zach Martinson 3 0-4 7, Austin Halligan 1 0-0 3. TOTALS 21 3-10 52.
MHS (1-3) - Austin Kluver 1 4-4 7, Mason McCarville 1 0-0 3, Blake Judkins 3 1-4 9, Hunter Hillygus 3 0-0 7, Riley Wirth 0 0-0 0, Blake Gimbel 6 5-8 18, Tyler Kluver 2 0-2 4, De'Quan McDowell 1 3-6 5. TOTALS 17 13-23 53.
3-Point Goals - FD 7 (Hatcher 3, Vaughn, Stover, Martinson, Halligan), MHS 6 Judkins 2, A.Kluver, Hillygus, Gimbel, McCarville).
"I thought we came out flat in the first half. We got out hustled, outrebounded. We really challenged the kids at halftime to play with more intensity and it needed to start at the defensive end,'" said Smith.
"They had the mindset that no one else was going to get the ball. Every rebound was ours, every loose ball was ours. It was a situation where we played to win, we didn't play not to lose."
Gimbel, who led the Bobcats (1-3, 1-0) with a team-high 18 points, knocked down a pair of free throws to give Marshalltown its first lead of the game at 47-46 with 2:14 to play. After Gimbel and Austin Kluver combined to hit three of four free throws, Gimbel threw down a breakaway dunk to punctuate a 23-7 surge, leaving the score at 52-46 with 37 ticks on the clock.
JC Hatcher, who paced the Dodgers (2-3, 0-1) with 18 points, didn't go down quietly as he connected on a triple on the ensuing possession to make it a three-point game with 29 seconds to go. The Bobcats made just one of four free throws leaving the door open and Zach Martinson answered with a 3 to make it 53-52 with 4.6 seconds remaining.
After missing the first, Tyler Kluver intentionally missed his second free throw as the Dodgers' last second heave sailed over the hoop.
Falling into a 9-1 hole to start the game, the Bobcats pulled within 17-12 on a triple from Mason McCarville late in the first quarter before the Dodgers responded with an 8-1 flurry and led by 12 midway through the second quarter.
Judkins hit a halftime-buzzer beater just outside the lane to give the Bobcats a boost heading into the locker room down 27-19.
"Blake's shot was huge. That gave us some momentum and we carried that into the second half," said Smith.
Kluver, who was brought up from the sophomore squad and played a total of five quarters Friday, flourished in his first varsity start - chipping in seven points including a buzzer-beating trey to end the third down 40-34.
"It took a little while to get our spacing and chemistry but once that flowed, he played a tremendous game," said Smith.
"Austin has definitely earned his spot (on varsity)."
Judkins, who poured in nine points, canned a triple and a bucket in the lane to bring the Bobcats within three (44-41) with 5:35 left. Zach Mortensen followed with a layup, the last field goal for the Dodgers until Hatcher's late trey. Andrew Stover and Blake Wilder added 10 points apiece for Fort Dodge.
Marshalltown faces Newton on the road Monday and returns to the Roundhouse Tuesday to entertain Indianola.
Just as they did Friday, the Bobcats rebounded from a slow start this season, but in the fourth game - they found the identity they're looking for.
"Tonight we played the way that we want to play. That's with high intensity, unselfishness and great defense," said Smith.
"That's where it's got to start every night."