3-game week for Dodgers

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Shariah Smith of Fort Dodge puts up a shot against Marshalltown last Friday in the Dodger gym. For more photos, please visit CU.messengernews.net

The Fort Dodge basketball teams head into a key stretch this week.

The Dodgers play three games, starting with a road trip to Southeast Polk on Tuesday. They’ll host Johnston on Friday and travel to West Des Moines Dowling on Saturday.

The Dodger girls (6-3 overall, 3-1 CIML Iowa Conference) face three rated opponents, while the boys square off with two foes who are receiving votes.

Fort Dodge will visit the 11th-ranked Ram girls (7-3) tonight, while the Dodger boys will play the Rams (1-8) at 7:45 p.m.

Tom Daniel’s boys (6-2 overall, 4-0 CIML Iowa Conference) have won three consecutive games for the third time this season. Daniel knows his group has been playing well, but can’t afford to look past anyone.

“Southeast Polk catches your attention. They only lost by six to Centennial (Ankeny) in overtime. They’re a good ballclub,” Daniel said. “We haven’t played well down there since I’ve been here. It’s a tough place to play.

“Any road game in the CIML is tough. You definitely don’t want to stumble and have to be sharp.”

The Rams have struggled this season and are currently in a four-game slump, where they’ve been averaging only 44.7 points per contest. Juniors Willie Tunks (9.8) and Grant Arnold (9.4) are the Rams leading scorers. Tunks has launched 50 three-point attempts; Arnold has put up 29.

With a win, Fort Dodge would reach 7-2 for just the third time since the 1989 season — matching the 1996-97 and 2010-11 squads.

Assistant head coach Charles Clayton on the 1988-89 team. Now his sons, Solomon and Malcolm, will get a chance to equal that. Malcolm (14.3) and Solomon Clayton (12.7) are the Dodgers leading scorers.

Junior Trey Mosley (7.1), sophomore Jordan Jackson (5.3) and senior Brady Read (3.6) round out the Dodgers’ starting rotation.

“They have some good outside shooters who could lead to trouble,” Daniel said. “We’ve been playing well and haven’t been beating ourselves lately, while limiting second and third chance opportunities.

“Malcolm had eight assists and zero turnovers against Marshalltown (in a 75-36 win last Friday), so we’ve been taking care of the basketball.”

It will be a different scenario when the Dodgers play two CIML games on Friday and Saturday. Johnston (6-3, 4-1) and Dowling (6-2, 3-1) are CIML Iowa Conference opponents who have both spent time in the Top-10 this year.

Friday’s tip will be 7:45 p.m. Saturday will begin at 2:30 p.m.

The Dragons are coming off a three-point win against Mason City. They lost to Dowling earlier last week.

Johnston has three players scoring in double figures, led by senior Dawson Jones (12.2) and junior Camden Vander Zwaag (12.1). Senior Jaden Kephart is averaging 10.9.

“They (Johnston) are big,” Daniel said. “They have a lot of height and are getting some solid guard play,” Daniel said. “Coach (Bobby) Sandquist has them playing well.”

The Maroons have won four of their last five, losing only to Mason City. Dowling is paced by junior Sam Ingall (14.9). Senior Joey Kern (11.4) is also scoring in double figures.

“They’re built kind of like us,” Daniel said. “They have good guards and don’t mind playing ugly games. They’re a well-coached team and have been at the top for years.

“For us to move up, we have to show that we can compete with programs like that.”

The Dodger girls jump head-first into the deep end. In their last three games, opponents have had a combined record of 8-25. This week’s three foes are 25-6.

On Friday it will be No. 10 Johnston (9-2, 4-1) and Saturday will be No. 9 Dowling (9-1, 4-0). Friday’s contest is a 6:15 p.m. start. Saturday tips at 1 p.m.

“We want to prove we can compete against the bigger schools,” said second-year head coach Julius Michalik. “We have to fire on all cylinders, and everyone has to play well up and down the roster.”

The Dodger girls, who are off to their best start since 2002-03, are led by seniors Justice Crooks (10.8) and Shariah Smith (9.3) and junior Shareece Smith (8.2). Senior Maggie Harvey (5.8), and juniors Liza Van Zyl (5.2) and Taelor Lessmeier (4.6) round out the starting rotation.

The Rams enter the contest with a pair of 16-plus point scores. Senior Sierra Mitchell is averaging 18.2 and junior Shiloh McCool is scoring at a 17.5-point clip.

Mitchell’s 39 made three-pointers are tops in Class 5A and third in the entire state.

“They’re very tall and lanky,” Michalik said. “They play a 3-2 zone, which we had problems with last season.”

On Friday, the Dodgers will face another top scorer in Johnston’s Taryn Knuth. The Dragon senior is leading Class 5A in scoring at 21.8 points per contest.

Jennah Johnson (11.3) and Maya McDermott (10.4) are also double-digit scorers.

“(Knuth) is a very good player,” Michalik said. “She has some other outside shooters to help her, so we kind of have to pick our poison.”

Dowling enters with three players scoring in double figures: freshman Caitlin Clark (13.2) and juniors Anna Wanek (11.5) and Josie Filer (11.5).

“They have some good results with wins over Mason City and Johnston,” Michalik said. “They play a tough schedule, but they’re a young club overall.”

DODGER BOYS (6-2, 4-0)

G Malcolm Clayton, 5-11, jr., 14.3

G Trey Mosley, 5-9, jr., 7.1

F Solomon Clayton, 6-4, sr., 12.7

F Jordan Jackson, 6-3, so., 5.3

F Brady Read, 6-3, sr., 3.6

DODGER GIRLS (6-3, 3-1)

G Shariah Smith, 5-3, sr., 9.3

G Shareece Smith, 5-5, jr., 8.2

G Maggie Harvey, 5-5, sr., 5.8

F Taelor Lessmeier, 5-10, jr., 4.6

F Liza Van Zyl, 6-0, jr., 5.2