On paper, the Fort Dodge girls basketball team appears to be a clear favorite in Wednesday's Class 4A, Region 1 quarterfinal against Storm Lake.
Despite the homecourt and record advantage, head coach Scott Timmerman knows his Dodgers (9-11 overall) can't affort to overlook the rebuilding Tornadoes (1-19).
Tip is set for 7 p.m. at the FDSH gym.
"I think with some of our girls being around two years ago (Fort Dodge endured a winless 0-21 campaign in 2011-12) it's easy for them to understand that every team gets a fresh start in the postseason," Timmerman said. "I'm sure Storm Lake is going to approach (the tournament) the same way, and I'm expecting a spirited effort out of them."
Entering the postseason, Fort Dodge is coming off consecutive home setbacks to Mason City (72-46) and Ames (49-33). Junior Lani Van Zyl (10.9) and senior Tiana Mericle (10.1) are the top scoring threats for the Dodgers, who have tripled their wins total from the two previous years combined.
Senior Ashley Altman (8.8), sophomore Madi Bennett (6.6) and junior Mallory Kilian (6.2) round out the FDSH starting five.
Mericle leads the team in total rebounds (167) and blocks (42), while shooting an impressive 64.0 percent (87-for-136) from the field. Van Zyl also paces the Dodgers in both assists (64) and steals (43).
"We're not ready to be done, so we're definitely looking at this as an opportunity," said Timmerman. "Since it's win and move on or lose and go home, everyone is going to be playing at a high intensity level."
After breaking a 69-game losing streak in a tight 38-37 home victory over Estherville-Lincoln Central back on Dec. 13, the Tornadoes have suffered 14 straight defeats.
Junior Rylee James (6.0) and sophomore Madison Gaffney (4.3) are the main offensive weapons for Storm Lake, which is 0-9 on the road this season. The Tornadoes, who are averaging only 23 points per night, have lost 14 of their games by at least 35 points.
"We obviously would've liked to earn a bye, but on the other hand, sometimes it's better to keep playing to stay sharp," Timmerman said.
Tonight's winner advances to face Algona (10-11) in a 4A, Region 1 semifinal on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Algona.