As the clock continues to tick down on the regular season, the Fort Dodge boys and girls basketball teams will hit the road for a pair of doubleheaders this week.
The Dodgers visit Southeast Polk tonight and then return to CIC Northern Division play Friday at Mason City.
Tip for both girls games is set for 6:15 p.m., followed by boys action at around 7:45 p.m.
Coming off a tight 64-63 home victory over Marshalltown, the Dodgers boys (5-9 overall, 2-2 in CIC Northern Division) are looking to stay on the winning track. Juniors JC Hatcher (14.1 points per game), Andrew Stover (8.6) and Zach Martinson (8.5) anchor the FDSH offensive charge.
"Our goal is to try and put a streak together, which is something we haven't been able to do yet this year," Fort Dodge head coach Tom Daniel said. "We certainly want to start moving forward for the playoffs. Playing on the road has not been our strength (the Dodgers are 1-5 away from home), so we need to have mental toughness and can't afford to get behind early."
Catalysts for the Rams (6-9) are Nick Jeffries (16.5) and Tucker Kamman (10.7). Southeast Polk has fallen in seven of its past eight games after a 5-2 start.
Dodger Boys (5-9, 2-2)
G JC?Hatcher, 6-0, jr., 14.1
G Andrew Stover, 5-11, jr., 8.6
F Tyler Vaughn, 6-4, sr., 8.2
F Zach Martinson, 6-4, jr., 8.5
F Blake Wilder, 6-3, jr., 7.2
Dodger Girls (3-13, 0-4)
G Lani Van Zyl, 5-7, so., 10.1
G Lexi Astor, 5-9, jr., 5.9
F Ashley Altman, 5-9, jr., 6.6
F Mallory Kilian, 5-9, so., 6.4
F Tiana Mericle, 6-1, jr., 4.6
"Height-wise, (the Rams) will come back to us a little bit," said Daniel. "The one thing that sticks out to me - even in their losses - is that they play everyone tough (six of Southeast Polk's losses have been decided by five points or less).
"They can shoot the heck out of the ball (the Rams have made 105 triples), and we're expecting a close game."
Matt Meyer (11.8) and Jason Kay (9.5) are the top threats for the Mohawks (2-14, 0-4), who are in the midst of a frustrating 14-game losing skid. In their earlier meeting this season, the Dodgers prevailed over Mason City by a 64-49 final.
"Mason City is always a grudge match," Daniel said. "The big thing is they probably want to get on the board (with a win) in the conference.
"Even though they've struggled a lot, it's their Senior Night. We can't let their crowd get into the game."
After opening their season with consecutive victories against Des Moines Hoover and Des Moines North, the Dodger girls (3-13, 0-4) have dropped six straight and 13 of their last 14 outings.
Sophomore Lani Van Zyl (10.1) and junior Ashley Altman (6.6) are the main weapons for Fort Dodge, which is shooting just 31.7 percent from the field on the season and averages 23.4 turnovers per game.
"One of the things we're looking to improve on is shot selection," said FDSH head coach Scott Timmerman. "We don't want to settle for so many pull-up jumpers with only two people on the offensive end. I do think we're starting to take better care of the basketball, though, against full-court pressure."
Drake signee Caitlin Ingle (14.2), Annie Penquite (7.9) and Jessica Gardner (7.9) form a dangerous trio for the sixth-ranked (Class 5A) Rams (11-4). Two-time defending 4A state semifinalist Southeast Polk has reeled off eight wins in its last nine games.
"Southeast Polk plays very fast on both ends of the court, so we're expecting a quick-paced game," Timmerman said. "We need to try and control the tempo and slow things down offensively."
No. 2 (5A) Mason City (15-3, 3-1) features a balanced attack spearheaded by Iowa State signee Jadda Buckley (12.0), Makenzie Meyer (10.6), Creighton recruit Myah Mellman (10.5) and Cortni Rush (10.0). Buckley, who missed eight games recently due to an ankle injury, also contributes 5.0 assists and 4.5 steals a night. The two-time reigning 4A state quarterfinalist Mohawks are tied for second in the entire state in three-pointers made (131) and are sixth in attempts (371). Mason City has prevailed in the last nine meetings against Fort Dodge since the start of the 2008-09 campaign, including a 62-20 rout in this season's previous encounter.
"Mason City is playing its best basketball right now," said Timmerman. "With Buckley and Mellman both returning to the lineup (Mellman was also sidelined for three games by an ankle injury), they look to be really getting back in sync."