DES MOINES – You can have all the talent in the world, the best game plan ever and be completely locked in mentally. But if you don’t shoot, it doesn’t make a lick of difference.
Testify, MFL MarMac.
“We just didn’t make shots, and that’s the story of the ballgame,” head coach Eric Dettbarn said Thursday afternoon after his team’s 51-38 loss to top-ranked West Fork in a Class 2A state tournament semifinal at Wells Fargo Arena. “I thought defensively we had a solid game plan, and the kids did a great job executing it. But we just couldn’t put the ball in the hole today.”
So it’s relegation to the 2A consolation game for a second consecutive season for the Bolldogs (22-4) and for the fourth time in Dettbarn’s lengthy and successful career. It’s to the 2A title game for the second time in three years for West Fork (26-0).
MFL’s consi opponent is Carroll Kuemper (17-9) Friday morning at 11:45.
“My kids played with tremendous effort today,” Dettbarn said. “I’m proud of them, been proud of them all year, and that’s not stopping now. They executed what we wanted to a ‘T.’”
But see the shooting thing. MFL hit just 4 of 23 field-goal attempts in the first half, including 0-for-9 from distance, as West Fork took a 22-13 halftime lead.
The Bulldogs couldn’t get anything on the interior due to the presence of thick 6-foot-8 West Fork center Payton Plagge, who swatted away six shots to go along with scoring 17 points and pulling down 14 rebounds. They got some good looks outside but could never consistently knock them down.
When you shoot 36 percent in the second half and that’s a drastic improvement, that’s not good.
“Defense wins championships,” said Plagge, heading to Division II St. Cloud State. “We haven’t been scoring the ball well, but we’ve been playing good defense.”
A Cody Mason trey with 3:30 left brought them within 37-34, but West Fork countered with six straight free throws that re-extended its lead. Mason was the only MFL player in double figures with 15.
His older brother, C.J., was the Bulldogs’ leading scorer (17 a game) but suffered through another rough shooting night, going 1-for-12 (1-for-10 from distance) for three points. Dettbarn revealed after the game Mason injured his back taking a charge in MFL’s quarterfinal win over North Cedar and did not even practice Wednesday.
“It was hard to score over top of (Plagge),” Cody Mason said. “We tried to get him into foul trouble, we got him into a little foul trouble with four. But not enough, I guess.”
“Coming into the second half, I was just thinking we needed to get it to the hole and get some rhythm going on offense,” said MFL guard Jordan Vorwald. “C.J.’s rhythm was just off this whole week. Hopefully tomorrow we can come out and make our shots and at least finish it with a win.”
Here is the game boxscore and official play by play: