Challenges await both Fort Dodge basketball teams during a busy three-game week, which begins tonight in Runnells against Southeast Polk.
The Dodger boys (6-9 overall), winners in three of their last four outings, take on the Rams (6-10) on Monday before heading to unbeaten Sioux City East (17-0) on Tuesday. They finish the week at home on Friday against Ames (9-9) in a Central Iowa Conference Northern division tilt.
The FDSH girls (3-14) also meet No. 3 Southeast Polk (11-5), East (6-12) and the Little Cyclones (11-7).
This evening's varsity twinbill tips at 5 p.m., with the normal 6:15 starts on Tuesday and Friday.
Head coach Tom Daniel's Dodgers have been moving in the right direction with recent victories over Johnston, Marshalltown and Mason City. Now they will test their endurance with a pair of long road trips, which includes a visit to the state's fifth-ranked squad in the Black Raiders.
''This is a great stretch to see how much mental toughness we can display,'' Daniel said. ''We've had some success recently, and we have some terrific opportunities in front of us. We play a very solid program in Southeast Polk, a Top-5 ballclub in East, then finish the week against the conference champions. As a competitor, you can't ask for much more than that.''
Dodger Boys (6-9, 3-2)
G JC?Hatcher, 6-0, jr., 13.9
G Andrew Stover, 5-11, jr., 9.3
F Tyler Vaughn, 6-4, sr., 7.9
F Zach Martinson, 6-4, jr., 9.3
F Blake Wilder, 6-3, jr., 6.9
Dodger Girls (3-14, 0-5)
G Lani Van Zyl, 5-7, so., 10.0
G Lexi Astor, 5-9, jr., 5.9
F Ashley Altman, 5-9, jr., 6.3
F Mallory Kilian, 5-9, so., 6.5
F Tiana Mericle, 6-1, jr., 5.0
The Rams are below the break-even mark like Fort Dodge, but they've dropped a handful of close games. Six of Southeast Polk's 10 setbacks have come by five points or less.
''It's going to be a formidable challenge,'' Daniel said. ''They have three kids who have attempted at least 95 three-point shots, and they've taken more (triples) than any team in 4A.
''Their record is deceiving. They've been right there in a lot of close decisions and come up just short.''
Nick Jeffries (16.8 points), Tucker Kamman (10.6) and Nick Arnold (8.5) have fired up 295 combined triples for Southeast Polk.
Sioux City East, last year's 4A state runner-up, is paced by Marcel Dunson (18.1) - a starter last season. Greg Kirwan (11.2) and Wyatt Mounts (10.0) also lead the Black Raiders offensively.
''To get this deep into the year without a loss is quite an accomplishment,'' Daniel said. ''They're not the same type of team without (current Iowa Hawkeye Adam Woodbury), but they attack the hoop well and have a lot of talented athletes.''
Ames tipped the Dodgers by five points in their first meeting last month. Justin Sloter (14.3), Sam Straub (12.5) and Nate Munn (9.2) are their top options.
''We want to finish the conference portion of the season on a positive note,'' Daniel said. ''Being above .500 (in league play) is something this program hasn't done in a while (FDSH is currently 3-2). That would be another positive step in the right direction.''
Juniors JC Hatcher (13.9), Andrew Stover (9.3) and Zach Martinson (9.3) anchor the Dodger boys.
The sledding doesn't get any easier for the Fort Dodge girls, who meet yet another highly-rated foe on Monday in the Rams.
All-stater Caitlin Ingle (14.9) is Southeast Polk's most viable weapon, though the Rams are balanced with Annie Penquite (7.9), Jessica Gardner (7.9) and Jessica Cole (7.7) as part of the supporting cast.
The Black Raiders - FDSH's Tuesday opponent - rely on Tara Schwaderer (14.8), Allysen Fuller (9.9) and Hanna Vanderloo (9.5). East has won three straight after a 3-12 start.
Ames, which features University of Oklahoma recruit Shaya Kellogg (12.6), defeated Fort Dodge 64-36 last month. The Little Cyclones are 4-1 since that night.
Sophomore Lani Van Zyl (10.0) is the Dodgers' leading scorer, followed by fellow starters Mallory Kilian (6.5), Ashley Altman (6.3), Lexi Astor (5.9) and Tiana Mericle (5.0).