(Editor's note: DCC Athletics release)
GLENDIVE - The DCC basketball men open conference play on Thursday with a target on the back after rattling off three straight wins in the Mon-Dak Preseason tournament against the league's top three teams: Miles 82-72, NDSCS 85-81 and defending champions Williston 83-73. Those three teams will be looking for revenge in January and February and the other teams will also be ready to give their best shot when they play the Bucs.
Since the pre-season tournament, Dawson has been up and down. They followed up their championship with a win at home vs. Northwest College before losing two in a row to Sheridan and Gillette. Then they ran off four wins in a row starting with Colorado Northwestern and ending with a win over undefeated Gillette, exacting some revenge for their earlier two point loss. They also took 5th ranked Otero to the wire, losing by four points. The lowlight of the non-conference part of the season was being swept on a road trip through Sheridan and Powell, Wyoming. The loss at Northwest was especially painful as they gave up a game tying shot at the buzzer in regulation and lost in overtime. After a blow-out win over Stone Child, Dawson split a pair of games in Phoenix by beating South Mountain handily before losing by three to Phoenix College. Their non-conference season ended with a trip to Canada where they beat Briercrest College. Of their six losses, four of them were by less than 4 points or in overtime.
Four Bucs are averaging double figures led by Camron Dunfee's 13.8 ppg. Man Man Baker and Beau Santistevan both average 13.4 ppg. All three rank in the top 10 in the conference in points per 40 minutes. CJ Nelson is also in double figures, averaging 10.1 ppg. All 13 players average at least 2.0 ppg. Baker is one of the conference leaders in FG%, shooting 56.7% from the field. Beau Santistevan and Jaron Masis aren't far behind with 54% shooting. Dunfee, Kolten Hitt and Romeo Parker are all among the league leaders in free throw percentage by shooting 87.0%, 85.7% and 83.3% respectively. The team leaders in rebounding are Devin Collins, Beau Santistevan and Charles Lampten. Collins, Lampten and Baker are in the top 10 in the conference in offensive rebounds per 40 minutes. Lampten leads the league in blocks with 1.6 per game.
The Bucs are the best in the league at forcing turnovers, 19.8 per game. They are also holding opponents to 40.9% shooting from the field which is 2nd best in the conference. Their rebounding margin (+7) is also 2nd best in the league. The area which they can stand to improve the most is in 3 point shooting and taking care of the ball.
Dawson Coach Joe Peterson shared his thoughts on the season so far, "I love the fact that we have been in so many close games. We have learned a lot playing tough competition in those kinds of games. Each of those losses has taught us something new and we have become battle-tested by playing the schedule we have. This is a special group who really believe in our system and believe in each other. They always stay together, stay positive and never stop working. We will be in the mix all season long because of how we compete each day in practice and in every game we play. That work ethic and togetherness helps us to keep improving as the season moves along. I've been told numerous times by fans and coaches how much people enjoy watching our guys play. They are very entertaining."
Lady Bucs field a whole new squad from last year with only two returners and have looked good at times, though inconsistent.
They've gone 8-9 with a tough schedule that has prepared them for conference play. Lake Region is almost always in the mix as one of the top teams in the conference and this year doesn't look to be any different as they are 9-7 on the season. The women from United Tribes have also proven that they will be able to hang with the top teams in the league with a 6-7 record and Dakota College Bottineau has a winning record at 8-7. Williston hasn't won many games up to this point (3-13), but the start of conference provides a new season and a fresh outlook where everyone has a chance to jump start their season.
The Bucs and Lady Bucs start conference with home games against United Tribes on Thursday, January 9 at 5:30 and 7:30 and then Lake Region State College on Sunday, January 12 at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Mon-Dak Conference games will be mostly on Sundays and Thursdays throughout the months of January and February. The regular season champion will get the right to host the Regional Tournament in March.