Dodgers look form momentum

With two more doubleheaders on tap this week, the Fort Dodge boys and girls basketball teams are hoping to take another step forward.

First up, the Dodgers welcome Waterloo West tonight.

FDSH will then visit CIC Northern Division foe Ames on Friday.

Tip for both girls games is set for 6:15 p.m., followed by boys action around 7:45 p.m.

After narrowly escaping with a 77-76 victory at Urbandale on Friday, the Fort Dodge boys (7-4 overall, 2-0 in the league) have now prevailed in two of their last three outings. Seniors JC Hatcher (17.5), Blake Wilder (12.2) and Zach Martinson (9.7) are the top scoring threats for the Dodgers. Hatcher has also dished out a team-high 37 assists, while Wilder leads the way with 72 rebounds. Despite a 6-0 road record this season, FDSH is just 1-4 at home.

“We’re in a tough stretch right now with no easy games,” Fort Dodge head coach Tom Daniel said. “We have to make sure we limit bad shots and attack the hoop. West has some nice athletes and strikes me as a team very similar to Des Moines North. Just like any other metro team, (the Wahawks) want to press, push the tempo, and get out and run.”

Catalysts for Waterloo West (3-5) are junior Lincoln Conrey (18.0) and seniors Alex Landers (12.9) and Jacob Meyer (10.0). The 6-foot-5 Conrey also pulls down 10.9 rebounds a night, while shooting 56.3 percent (45 of 80) from the field.

On Friday, the Wahawks dropped a 51-43 home decision to Cedar Falls.

“All of these crossover games are for bragging rights, so I would expect a good performance (this evening),” said Daniel. “We’re still battling for a No. 1 or 2 (postseason) seed, and obviously we’d like to go out and take care of business on our own court. I think our guys kind of relish playing in a hostile environment, but some of those (home struggles) are a credit to the competition, too.”

Senior Sam Straub (20.4), junior Sam Rathe (9.9) and senior Spencer Shane (9.9) are the main weapons for the Little Cyclones (4-7, 1-0). Straub, a Southern Illinois football commit, actually ranks eighth among all 4A players in scoring. Ames is coming off a lopsided 77-49 setback at then-No. 8 (Class 4A) Southeast Polk.

“Straub killed us last year by getting inside (Straub tallied 27 points in a 61-59 triumph over FDSH back on Feb. 8 of 2013),” Daniel said. “Ames has a fairly experienced team, but they’ve kind of been up and down. We obviously want to win the CIC, so this is a big game against a team in our substate.”

Last winter, Fort Dodge fell short against Waterloo West by a 64-39 final. The Dodgers have also lost four consecutive meetings against the Little Cyclones.

Behind a 10-for-15 performance outside the arc, Scott Timmerman’s FDSH girls (7-6, 1-1) jumped back in the win column Friday with a tight 58-56 victory at Urbandale. Junior Lani Van Zyl (12.3) and seniors Tiana Mericle (9.8) and Ashley Altman (8.9) form a reliable trio for the Dodgers. Mericle has also collected team-bests in boards (111) and blocks (28), while Van Zyl has posted 45 assists and 34 steals. On the heels of winning its first three home contests this winter, Fort Dodge has now dropped three in a row.

“I think it’s really important for us to try to control the tempo and play within ourselves,” said Timmerman. “Waterloo West has pretty much everyone back from last year. They probably have one of the most athletically-gifted teams in the whole state. With their quick hands and quick feet, we need to take good care of the ball.”

Seniors Blaire Thomas (14.5), Kate Letkewicz (14.3) and Haley Puk (14.3) are leaned on heavily by the sixth-ranked (5A) Wahawks (11-2), whose only defeats came to No. 1 (5A) Iowa City High (53-51) and Cedar Rapids Washington (81-68). The 5-foot-11 Thomas, an Iowa State recruit, chips in 4.7 rebounds and 1.9 steals per contest.

The Little Cyclones (6-5, 0-1) feature junior Molly Sanders (14.7), senior Kiana Peterson (9.2) and freshman Ryan Weiss (8.3). Following five straight wins to open the season, Ames is now in the midst of a four-game slide, with three of those losses coming against 5A teams currently ranked in the Top-10.

“I think we will be fine against Ames if we play our style,” Timmerman said. “This next stretch of games will be a good time to see how much growth we’ve made. Are we going to compete hard for four quarters, or will we revert back to bad habits?”

A year ago, the Dodgers had no answers for West in a 72-39 setback. Since the beginning of the 2006-07 campaign, Fort Dodge has dropped 15 straight meetings against the Little Cyclones.