Staying out of league play, the Fort Dodge boys and girls basketball teams will look to make the most of their opportunities this week.
The Dodgers host Johnston this evening. FDSH will then hit the road to face Des Moines Roosevelt on Friday.
Tip for both girls games is set for 6:15 p.m., followed by boys action at approximately 7:45 p.m.
Coming off back-to-back decisive victories at Mason City (65-48) and Ankeny (73-60), the Fort Dodge boys (5-2 overall) have plenty of momentum on their side. Seniors JC Hatcher (16.7), Blake Wilder (13.7) and Zach Martinson (10.3) pace the balanced Dodger offensive attack.
Wilder has pulled down a team-best 47 rebounds, while shooting 57.4 percent (39-for-68) from the field. Hatcher, who ranks 10th on the school's all-time scoring list with 713 career points, has also tallied 31 assists and 31 boards.
"We're in the gauntlet of our schedule right now, so we need to elevate our play a little bit or all of a sudden we could go from 5-2 to 5-5," FDSH head coach Tom Daniel said. "I think the road wins we've had are nice, but I haven't sensed any kind of arrogance or static in our play. Our work ethic and attitude both seem to be pretty good."
Dodger Boys (5-2, 2-0)
G JC Hatcher, 6-1, sr., 16.7
G Andrew Stover, 5-11, sr., 6.1
G Krunal Thakor, 6-0, sr., 8.1
F Blake Wilder, 6-3, sr., 13.7
F Zach Martinson, 6-4, sr., 10.3
Dodger Girls (4-4, 1-1)
G Lani Van Zyl, 5-7, jr., 10.4
G Madi Bennett, 5-6, so., 8.3
G Mallory Kilian, 5-9, jr., 6.1
F Ashley Altman, 5-10, sr., 11.0
F Tiana Mericle, 6-1, sr., 12.0
Following a rocky 1-3 start to their season, the Dragons (3-3) have rebounded with consecutive wins over West Des Moines Dowling (61-53) and Mason City (51-37). Junior Regen Siems (10.2) and seniors Nick Stitzell (8.8) and Derek Jones (8.7) are the focal points for Johnston.
Senior all-stater Jay Knuth, a Loyola University Chicago commit, also recently returned to the lineup for the Dragons after being suspended for the first four games. Knuth, a 6-foot-6 center, averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds a night as a junior.
"Johnston's record is a little bit deceiving since they just got Knuth back," said Daniel. "(The Dragons) remind me a lot of Waukee with their huge front court. I think they returned everyone back of importance from last year. They have a veteran and skilled group. Hopefully, we can compete a little better than we did against Waukee (FDSH suffered a 79-55 home setback to the then-No. 8 (Class 4A) Warriors back on Dec. 17)."
Catalysts for the Roughriders (5-2) are juniors Daniel Luckett (13.9), Jordan Johnson (12.1) and Mario Manuel (8.3). Roosevelt downed intra-city rival Des Moines Lincoln Friday, 64-54.
"Roosevelt is very athletic and has decent size," Daniel said. "All of their guys can jump and run the court real well."
Last winter, Fort Dodge beat Johnston on the road, 46-31, during the regular season before being ousted by the Dragons here in a 4A, Substate 2 quarterfinal, 47-30. The Dodgers were also upended by Roosevelt during the 2012-13 campaign, 56-51.
On the girls side, the Dodgers (4-4) will try to turn the page after three consecutive double-digit defeats to No. 6 (5A) Waukee (77-54), ninth-ranked (5A) Mason City (74-51) and Ankeny (48-31). Seniors Tiana Mericle (12.0), Ashley Altman (11.0) and junior Lani Van Zyl (10.4) are the top scoring threats for FDSH, which has already eclipsed its victory total (three) from the two previous seasons combined.
Spearheading Johnston (4-5) are sophomore Rachel Hinders (14.4) and freshman Elle Brown (11.6). The Dragons fell short at Mason City Friday, 53-46.
On the heels of seven losses in a row, Roosevelt (2-7) has bounced back with wins over Des Moines North (52-14) and Des Moines Lincoln (40-34). The Roughriders feature juniors Meredith Burkhall (18.3) and Julanie Carter (4.9). The 6-foot-2 Burhkall, who is shooting 63.8 percent from the field, grabs 9.3 boards a night.