Scott Messerly learned plenty about coaching from a completely different perspective right out of the chute.
“I started as a seventh-grade girls basketball assistant,” Messerly said.
The head coach?
The long-time Fort Dodge resident laughed at the idea he would’ve anticipated celebrating his 200th varsity coaching victory some 25 years later. The Dodger girls gave him that moment on Friday, though, defeating Ames by a final of 47-35 to complete a season sweep of the Little Cyclones.
“I would’ve never guessed back then I’d still be coaching, doing what I do where I’m at now (after nearly three decades),” the 54-year-old Messerly said. “I’ve been incredibly fortunate, though. Really lucky. A lot of great kids, terrific families and assistants who have made a real difference.
“I’ve enjoyed it. I still get the most excited seeing teams and girls improve as the season goes. The wins and losses are the wins and losses. Sometimes you’re good enough and sometimes you aren’t. If you keep working hard to get better, and you can look back to see how far you’ve come, that’s the most important thing in high school athletics. The journey.”
The Dodgers (9-5 overall) finally shook off Ames (4-9) down the stretch, with senior post Paytene Hiveley hitting a pair of field goals and junior guard Mackenzie McIlrath sinking a three-pointer after a double-digit fourth-quarter lead had shrunk to six. Hiveley had 16 points, with freshman LJ Maehl adding 15 in the win.
“I think Ames is getting better, so it’s good to get this one,” Messerly said. “We had a really solid second quarter for the most part after coming out kind of slow.”
The Little Cyclones led for the entire opening period, but a triple at the buzzer by Maehl put FDSH up 9-8. The Dodgers didn’t look back, extending the lead to six by halftime and 10 heading into the fourth.
“They hit some big shots; we just couldn’t quite get comfortable,” Messerly said. “Give them credit. They forced us into some bad decisions. At the same time, we just have to get better and more consistent physically and mentally when it comes to taking care of the basketball.”
Sophomore Meah McCaleb had seven steals for Fort Dodge. Senior Lainey Maehl added seven points.
Messerly won 165 games and three North Central Conference championships at St. Edmond, his alma mater, during a successful 12-year stint. He was born and raised in Fort Dodge, graduating from St. Edmond in 1986 and Iowa Central Community College before attending the University of Iowa.
Messerly is 35-63 with the Dodgers in a little over four and a half seasons. He took over a program dominated by underclassmen and won just twice in his inaugural campaign, but FDSH is 33-43 since, with a 26-28 mark in the last three years.
The Dodgers, who head to Des Moines East on Monday and Waterloo East on Friday, have now swept Ames in back-to-back seasons.
FORT DODGE 47, AMES 35
Fort Dodge — Paytene Hiveley 16, LJ Maehl 15, Lainey Maehl 7, Meah McCaleb 3, Kenzie McIlrath 3, Ashlyn Wills 3.
Ames — Karsyn Pankonen 12, Abbey McGuire 8, Anisa Percival 8, Natalya Deardorff 2, Morgan Wahl 2, Haley Prakashan 2.
Quarter scores: Fort Dodge led 9-8, 20-14, 36-26.