Gillette College came into Glendive ranked #10 in the latest NJCAA Division I poll. They were 12-0 and had most of their team returning from last year, including All-American Abdul Mohamed. The Pronghorns have won Region IX for the past two years and been to Nationals three years running, including a third place finish at Nationals. The Bucs didn’t seem fazed by their opponent’s flashy resume. It was a back and forth game early on with the Bucs getting balanced scoring from their starters. Three different players connected for 3-pointers for the home team; Brent Finn, Tate Savoie and Travon Hamilton. Gillette hung close with good inside play from Richard Brown and the outside shooting of Ted McCree. There were four ties and three lead changes in the first 10 minutes of the game. The Bucs gradually built a lead towards the end of the opening half, going on a 13-5 run in the closing four minutes to grab a 53-43 lead at halftime. The run was sparked by a 3-pointer from Michele Capasso, followed by a lay-up by Simon Falokun. Finn made a couple of free-throws after a technical foul on Gillette’s coach, and then Falokun scored another bucket inside. Savoie hit a pull-up jumper before Falokun finished the half with another basket inside. It was the largest lead of the game for the Bucs. Savoie ended the half with 13 points to lead DCC while Falokun added 10 and Finn 9. Dawson only turned it over 5 times in the first half and shot a blistering 61% from the 3-point line, going 8-13 with six different players making one.
DCC Coach Joe Peterson was very pleased, “We really rose to the challenge in the first half and different players stepped up to make big shots. We took good care of the ball and played solid defense.”
The second half started much slower for both teams and DCC maintained an 8-12 point lead up until 6:49 left. Gillette went on an 11-2 run in a three minute stretch and took the lead by 1 point on a steal and lay-up by Kenny Jackson. It remained a one possession game for the final three minutes. Finn put the Bucs back on top with a pull-up jumper, but Trent Williams made two free throws to regain the lead for the Pronghorns. McCree made a critical basket with a minute remaining to push it to a three-point advantage. Falokun answered back on the other end. DCC needed a stop on defense to have a chance to win it. After a great defensive stand, Travon Hamilton was called for a reach in and Williams made both free throws again to go up by 3 points. With 8 seconds remaining Hamilton drove the length of the court and kicked it out to Finn whose last second shot came up short and Gillette escaped with a 82-79 come from behind victory. It is the only time this year Gillette hasn’t won by double digits.
The Pronghorns won the battle of the boards, outrebounding the home team 52-37, including 19 offensive rebounds. The Bucs outshot Gillette from the field and from the free throw line, but the visitors outscored them 17-9 at the free throw line. Both teams had three players in double figures. For DCC it was Finn with 19, Falokun with 17 and Savoie with 15. For the victors it was McCree with 22, Trent Williams with 14 points and Kenny Jackson with 14 points. The Bucs limited All-American Abdul Mohamed to 1-10 shooting from the field with 4 turnovers.
Coach Peterson concluded, “We fought hard and made some big plays on both sides of the ball. We didn’t quite get the bounce or the call at the end, but we really battled. I’m confident we can compete with anyone because we keep getting better. We have a good group of guys that play hard and play well together.”
The loss drops the Bucs to 13-4 on the season with three of their four losses coming to top 25 teams. Gillette moves to 13-0. Both teams will have a couple of weeks off before starting conference play in January. Dawson opens conference play at Williston on January 8th and will be back at home on Thursday, January 11th vs. two time reigning Region XIII champions North Dakota State College of Science. Starting on January 11th, the Bucs will be playing at home every Thursday night in January and February.