Piling on: Dawson Community College's rise to national tourney

Bucs MBB Pile.png
Posted at 11:29 AM, Apr 15, 2021

GLENDIVE -- Joe Peterson was stuck on the bottom of the pile.

"I got pinned and everybody started piling on top," he recalled to MTN Sports.

"I was on top of coach in the dog pile," sophomore Kell Schwers admitted with a smile.

"I'm the reason Coach P fell, actually," conceded freshman Kennedy Brown. "I kind of hugged (teammate) Chuck (Lampten) and Chuck pushed me and then Coach P fell on top of me. So, the whole thing was pretty much my fault."

"Fortunately, I got a couple players that looked out for me and kind of protected me and shielded me so I didn't get crushed underneath the pile," Peterson said.

Call it an occupational hazard -- but one Peterson is willing to live with as head coach of the basketball men at Dawson Community College.

He and his players were reflecting on Saturday night's celebration just seconds after the Buccaneers punched their first-ever ticket to the National Junior College Athletic Association's Division I national tournament.

"Hard to believe, it really is," Peterson said.

Here's why: The Bucs have been playing men's basketball for 63 years but never have they reached the big dance. Until now.

Saturday's survival to get there couldn't have been much more dramatic. Indian Hills Community College, a team now entering its 17th national tournament, had multiple shots to win on Dawson's home court in the final seconds.

"We almost had a steal, then we trapped him in the corner," Peterson recalled. "Somehow, he got the shot off and I have no idea how."

"I'd say the last shot was definitely in slow motion," said Schwers. "I don't even know how he got it off because he was getting double teamed."

"I thought it was going to go in," Brown said.

Peterson's view from the bench may have aged him by a couple years.

"All of our guys were on one side of the floor and the shot came off on the weak side, and their guard came out from the 3-point line and he was wide open. And I went, 'Oh no,'" Peterson said.

"He was wide open, like coach said, and that worried me a bit," Schwers recalled.

"I saw the guard come and tip the ball," said Brown.

"And fortunately he missed it," Peterson exhaled.

"And once he missed, (the feeling was) just relief," said Schwers.

"We pulled it out and I was so happy for that," Brown said.

And hence, the ensuing dog pile.

It should be noted that the Bucs are no strangers to winning tight finishes this season.

"It seems like every time we're in a close game, we're leading throughout, we get a big lead in the second half, they come back and then we do enough to win it and hold on at the end," Peterson said.

It's how both the regional and district championships were decided for DCC.

"But it's funny because every single time, it's not been us with the ball at the end of the game making a shot to win it," Peterson continued. "It's been us on defense needing to get a stop to win it."

That's who the Bucs are under Peterson, who took the head coaching job six years ago -- a great defensive team forcing opponents to miss and creating turnovers with a stingy full-court press. The 19th-seeded Bucs plan to live by that in Tuesday's national tournament opener against 14th-seeded Indian River State College (Fort Pierce, Florida) Tuesday at 9 a.m. MDT.

"They can shoot lights out and they've got a couple guys who shoot 50% from the 3-point line," Peterson said. "They're tough and hard-nosed. I think we've got some size advantage and I don't think they know quite what to expect when we hit them with our press."

All NJCAA national tournament games can be streamed on and Dawson’s games will additionally be broadcast on radio station 96.5 KDZN.

Geographically, the tourney is played annually near the dead center of Kansas at the storied junior college site in Hutchinson. Not exactly a straight shot from Glendive.

"It's funny, I'm trying to find the path of how we're going to drive from here to there and there's nothing," Peterson said. "There's nothing between Glendive and Hutchinson."

Couldn't be more appropriate for a team blazing its own trail this season.