(Editor's note: DCC Athletics release)
WAHPETON, ND - For the third year in a row, the Dawson Community College basketball men have emerged as NJCAA Region XIII Division I champions.
It was a different road for the Bucs this year as they finished in second place in the regular season and had to go on the road for the Regional Tournament. On Monday night in Wahpeton, ND, the Bucs beat regular season champions North Dakota State College of Science 84-75. NDSCS beat Dawson three times in the regular season by a combined nine points. The Bucs exacted their revenge by beating the Wildcats by nine points in the championship game. It was Dawson’s second win this year over a nationally ranked team.
Dawson Coach Joe Peterson shared his feelings, “In moments like this, I just feel incredibly grateful and blessed. Grateful for these players’ commitment and all the work they put in. Grateful to our coaching staff… Scott, Manny and last year’s assistant Kyle for all of the hours they have invested into these players and this program. Grateful for our college faculty, staff and administration for the many ways they support us. Grateful to our amazing community and Buc fans in Glendive and throughout the country. And most of all grateful to God for his favor and blessing and allowing us to experience something as special as this.”
It was a heavyweight battle on Monday night. Dawson came in with a 26-5 record while North Dakota State College of Science was 30-1 and ranked #20 in the country for NJCAA Division 1. NDSCS scored the first basket, but Jajuan Tot answered back for the Bucs with a lay-up off a pass from Michael Jok. Jok scored on the next possession and then the Wildcats retook the lead 5-4. That was their last lead of the game. Dawson raced down the court and Kennedy Brown collected an offensive rebound and dunked it while getting fouled. He connected on his free throw to give the visitors a 7-5 lead and they never looked back. Dawson went on a 10-3 run a few minutes later and held a 30-19 advantage. The Wildcats fought back with their own 8-0 run, but the Bucs closed the half with their 8th three pointer when Joe Mpoyo connected on his third from long range with three seconds left to give them a 45-39 edge at intermission. NDSCS had the advantage on the boards, but Dawson shot 56% from the field and 44% from the three-point line in the half. Jajuan Tot led the way with 10 points on 4-4 shooting, including 2-2 from the three-point line.
Dawson’s shooting cooled off in the second half, but their defense tightened up making it difficult for the Wildcats. Fitting of a championship team though, NDSCS scratched and clawed to get back in the game and tied it up at 54 with twelve minutes remaining. Over the next two minutes, DCC went on a 10-0 run on 2 free throws from DeAngelo Horn, a 3-pointer from Mpoyo, a put-back from Jok, and another 3-pointer from Mpoyo. The lead stayed between 8-12 points for the rest of the way with NDSCS never getting closer than six points as Dawson clinched the championship.
“I was so proud of the toughness we showed,” said Coach Peterson. “We’ve only had one home game in the month of February. We’ve won six games away from home this month. They had a great crowd that was very loud and their students were sitting right next to our bench and giving us grief all night, but our guys kept their composure. It was a true team effort like it has been all year.”
Dawson shot 51% from the field and 38% from the three-point line, but only 52% from the free throw line. They held NDSCS to 41% from the field (8% lower than their average) and 24% from the 3-point line (14% below their average). The Bucs also forced 17 turnovers which is 5 more than the Wildcat’s season average.
Dawson had 5 players in double figures led by Joe Mpoyo who scored 19 points, hitting 5 3-pointers. Jajuan Tot had a strong game on both ends scoring 11 points and having 5 steals. Michael Jok, Reggie Martin and DeAngelo Horn all contributed 11 points. Jok also had 11 rebounds and 6 assists.
The Wildcats had a great game from Micah Swallow as he finished with a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds. They also got a strong 19 point, 7 rebound effort from Khari Broadway. JaQuan Sanders-Smith rounded out the Wildcats in double figures, finishing with 17 points.
Dawson (27-5), will travel to Ottumwa, Iowa to face off against #6 ranked Indian Hills Community College (26-5) in the North Central District Championship Game for the 3rd straight year. The District Champion gets an automatic bid to the NJCAA Division I National Tournament.