CAMANCHE, Iowa — During the Camanche boys basketball team’s pregame warmup in the substate final against West Branch, Dakota and Cameron Soenksen were launching 27- to 30-foot jump shots.
Dakota buried four straight. Cameron knocked down three in succession from well beyond the NBA 3-point line.
“Seeing the long ones go in make the shorter ones feel a lot closer and gives you a lot more confidence,” Dakota said.
That deep-range mentality has served the Soenksens and Camanche well.
Going into Monday night’s Class 2A state quarterfinal against third-ranked Cascade at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, the Soenksen brothers have combined for 142 made 3-pointers — Dakota 81 and Cameron 61.
Dakota, a 6-foot-3 senior, is tied for the 2A state lead. Cameron, a 6-foot freshman, is among the top 10. They’ve garnered the nickname Camanche’s "Splash Brothers.”
“Watching our older brother Cody play in high school, he’d walk down the court and pull up from the Indian head (just past mid-court in Camanche’s gym),” Cameron recalled. “I just wanted to be like him.
“We’d go to the gym and he’d say, ‘The coach won’t get mad at you for shooting. If he does, he’ll say something to you.’”
Dakota and Cameron are the youngest of five children.
Cody, 25, was influential in their basketball development.
“He has basically formed us into who we are as players,” Dakota said.
The Soenksens were raised in Camanche but their father’s job relocated the family to the San Antonio, Texas, area four years ago.
“It was really tough, one of the toughest parts of my life,” Dakota said. “Coming from little Camanche and going to a (Class) 6A super school that had 700 people in my class, it was very different.”
Dakota played his freshman and sophomore seasons in Texas.
“That helped me grow a lot,” he admitted. “Playing against a lot of bigger schools and players, that really toughened me up.”
Still, their mother knew they weren’t happy in Texas.
“My mom really put it on me and Cameron,” Dakota said. “She gave us a choice, and we decided to come back.”
Dakota was an immediate contributor for the Indians last season. He averaged a team-high 14 points per game and canned 65 3-pointers for a Camanche squad that won 17 games and reached the district final.
Cameron, an eighth grader, was the team’s waterboy.
This season, they’re both in the starting lineup and among four players averaging double figures for the Indians. Dakota is the team’s leading scorer at 18.7 points a contest. Cameron averages 14.
“Being a couple years behind him, I never thought I’d actually be able to play basketball on the same team,” Cameron said. “It truly has been a blessing, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
While both have an affinity for the 3-point shot, their personalities are polar opposites.
Camanche coach Josh Davis describes Dakota as an introvert. Cameron, meanwhile, is comfortable in a crowd and speaks his mind.
“Yin and yang, personality wise,” Davis said. “When it comes to their game, Cameron is a little more explosive and Dakota is a little more consistent.”
Cameron plays with a fearless approach. Even being the only freshman starter in the four-class, 32-team state tournament field, he isn’t afraid to take the shot in a pivotal moment of the game.
He had 20 points in the substate final and a season-high 27 versus Iowa City Regina late in the regular season.
“I wasn’t that brave as a freshman,” Dakota said. “He’s shooting pretty deep as a freshman. That’s the benefit of being the youngest. You get two watch two younger brothers play.”
Davis knows Cameron won’t be intimidated by Wells Fargo Arena.
“He really feels and knows he belongs on that stage,” Davis said. “There is no fear in that kid at all. For a freshman to have that type of confidence, there are times it drives you nuts but also times it comes around and saves you.
"We embrace it and let him be himself.”
Who is the better shooter?
Dakota is shooting 35.7 percent from the arc but has a knack for getting hot. He made eight 3-pointers against Easton Valley and poured in a school-record nine versus Clinton Prince of Peace this season.
Cameron is hitting at a 37.9 clip.
“I’ll take that to the grave with me I’m the better shooter,” Dakota said, “but he’s got three more years. We’ll have to see.”
Cameron admits games of “21” in the gym become quite competitive between he, Dakota and Cody.
“We don’t like to lose,” Cameron said.
Dakota plans to continue his basketball career at Division III University of Dubuque next fall. Cameron will be one of two starters returning for the Indians.
First, Camanche is hoping to extend its season past Monday. The Indians lost to Cascade twice during the regular season.
“I was very excited to see Cascade pop up on the board,” Cameron said. “I love beating a team three times like Northeast, but I’m not going to lose to a team three times.”