Looking to build some early-season momentum, the St. Edmond boys and girls basketball teams will face a pair of North Central Conference tests this week.
The Gaels welcome Bishop Garrigan tonight before visiting Clarion-Goldfield on Friday.
Tip for both girls games is set for 6:15 p.m., with boys action to follow around 7:45 p.m.
Entering the 2012-13 campaign, the SEHS boys (0-0 overall, 0-0 NCC) return three starters from last year's Class 2A state runner-up squad, which finished 20-7 overall and 13-5 in the NCC.
Seniors David Flattery, Alex Mericle and junior Robby Burke are all back in the Gael lineup.
Flattery, a 6-foot-3 small forward, averaged 11.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists as a junior, shooting 46.2 percent (42-for-91) from behind the arc.
Mericle, who is currently sidelined by a sore foot suffered during football season, contributed 123 total points and a team-high 201 boards last winter. Burke also posted 101 points and 83 rebounds.
Rounding out this evening's starting five for SEHS are seniors Aaron McElroy and Aaron Chalstrom and junior Hank Crimmins.
"I want to see us rebound and finish inside with some contact," Gael head coach Adolph Kochendorfer said. "Like always, we'll have to play decent defense to give ourselves a chance (at a win)."
John Burns, a 6-foot-5 senior, will once again be the main weapon in the Garrigan (0-0, 0-0) offensive attack. Burns, a second-team 1A all-state nominee a year ago, registered a team-high 18.7 points and 6.5 boards as a junior.
"It's a rivalry game, so we know Garrigan will come to play hard," said Kochendorfer, who has guided SEHS to a 136-24 conference record since the 2003-04 season. "Burns is a very good basketball player that Creighton has offered as a preferred walk-on, but we saw this summer that they have some other capable guys around him, too."
Seniors Stephen McAtee and Adam Stevens will be leaned on heavily by the Cowboys (0-0, 0-0) after netting 8.6 and 8.5 points per game, respectively, last season. McAtee also led the team in rebounding (7.3).
"Clarion-Goldfield has a new coach (Scott Herrig) this year, so I'm not really sure what to expect,"Kochendorfer said. "We just have to do what we do well and make adjustments to (our opponents)."
In their opener last Tuesday, the Gael girls (1-0, 1-0) showed few signs of rust, pounding Eagle Grove by a 59-27 final. Sophomores Jaci Stumpf (15) and Anna Yung (15) and senior Hannah Lentsch (10) all scored in double digits for the green and white. Stumpf also notched four steals and dished out eight assists, while Yung had four steals and five assists. Lentsch grabbed a team-best seven boards.
"I thought we played pretty good for the first time out, but there are still a few things we need to work on," said Gael head coach Scott Messerly, whose squad has reeled off 21 straight league victories. "We can't be reaching so much defensively and have to find a way to stay out of foul trouble.
"Coming off the holiday break, it'll be interesting to see how we respond."
The Golden Bears (1-1, 1-0) earned a 44-36 home triumph over Clarion-Goldfield in their previous outing. Taylor Hovey paced Garrigan with nine points, while Kristin Condoleon and Chelsi Lanus each tallied eight.
"Garrigan is always a good rivalry game," Messerly said. "(The Golden Bears) are a pretty young team like we are, but Coach (Brandon) Schwab does a nice job with them."
Junior Jossie Sann (15.0 ppg) and senior Stephanie Steiner (6.0) are the top scoring threats for the Cowgirls (0-1, 0-1).