The Dawson Community College Buccaneers saw their season come to an abrupt end on Friday night in the semifinals of the Region XIII Tournament in Williston, North Dakota. Once again, for the fifth straight year, it was the North Dakota State College of Science Wildcats who eliminated the Bucs. The two teams split their regular season games and, statistically speaking, were the best two defensive teams and rebounding teams in the league. They also both had rosters full of freshmen. There were a lot of similarities between them, but it was the shooting of NDSCS, and especially by Noble Cooper, that was the difference in this game. The Wildcats second-leading scorer had two subpar games against Dawson in the regular season, only scoring 4 points and 6 points, but when it counted most, he stepped up. He got NDSCS going early on with a few big 3-pointers that gave them confidence and momentum. He made 3-5 from long range and 6-10 overall in the opening half to score 15 points. Nobody else had more than six points for the 2nd seeded Wildcats. Dawson struggled to get going offensively, only making 9-27 from the field in the first half. Both defenses were stout, but Cooper helped his team get the advantage. Dawson had the chance to cut the deficit to single digits with the last possession of the first half, but a turnover led to a lay-up at the buzzer on the other end for Cooper to put NDSCS up 37-24.
The Bucs came out with a do-or-die attitude in the second half and forced many turnovers using their full-court press. They were able to convert several of those turnovers into fast break layups on the offensive side. They chipped away behind the scoring of CJ Nelson and eventually cut the lead to three points, but that was as close as they would get. The second half was even, with both teams scoring 41 points as NDSCS advanced with a 78-65 victory. They shot a sizzling 93% from the free throw line for the game and 67% from inside the three-point line. Dawson shot 33% from the field in both halves and only 32% from inside the arc.
Cooper finished with 29 points on 11-18 shooting from the field for NDSCS. Oman Oman had 16 and Duoth Gach had 14 points. CJ Nelson led Dawson with 24 points. Man Man Baker was the only other Buc in double digits with 10 points. DCC ends the season with a 20-12 record.
Head Coach Joe Peterson shared his thoughts; “Our guys fought so hard and stayed together as a team even though we just couldn’t get it going offensively. We had a lot of great chances, but didn’t finish plays inside when we got to the basket. Our pressure really created problems for them and got us back in the game, but you have to take advantage of your opportunities. I’m proud of what these guys accomplished. To follow up our success last season and still win 20 games despite losing every player except one is really outstanding. These guys have gotten so much better individually and as a team over the last six months. I’ve never coached a team that was as together as this group was and that played defense the way they did. They have a lot to be proud of.”
North Dakota State College of Science will meet Williston State College in the Region 13 Championship Game Saturday afternoon at 3:00pm CST.