In a close game that saw twelve lead changes and with United Tribes clinging to a one point lead with less that two minutes remaining, Dawson's big man Jaron Masis got an offensive rebound and converted a big three-point play with 1:37 remaining to help them regain the lead at 72-70. After a United Tribes missed three point attempt, CJ Nelson found Kolten Hitt for a three-pointer from the top of the key to make it a two possession game with 51 seconds left and the Bucs closed out the win with four free throws by Marcus Stephens and Cam'ron Dunfree. The United Tribes Technical College Thunderbirds kept it close throughout, but the put back by Masis, big three by Hitt, and clutch free throw shooting proved to be enough.
It was close in the early going and then the Bucs went on a 10-2 run, fueled by a couple of three-pointers from Stephens, to take charge at 26-14. The Thunderbirds responded strongly with a 17-4 run of their own to regain the lead 31-30. Rob McClain Jr. had a good half with 13 points on 6-7 shooting to go along with 6 rebounds and 3 steals. Stephens led the Bucs with nine points. Both teams shot similar percentages, but United Tribes shot better from two point range and DCC shot better from 3-point range. The teams were even on the boards and went to the locker room knotted at 33.
The Bucs came out strong in the second half with Devin Collins scoring inside and Kolten Hitt getting a steal and drawing a foul which sent him to the line to make two free throws. Stephens scored again to give the Bucs a six point lead at 39-33. Once again when it looked like the Bucs would take charge, UTTC came storming back with back to back three-pointers from Joe Sazue III. After it was tied again at 41, the biggest margin either team would get until the end was five points. From the twelve minute mark until the final minute, the margin stayed between 1-3 points in a closely contested game.
The Thunderbirds were led once again by McClain who is the 2nd leading scorer and leading rebounder in the conference. He finished the night with 23 points on 10-15 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks. Montel Carlow, the leading scorer in the conference, finished with 20 points.
The Bucs had four guys in double figures with Dunfee leading the team with 16 points, Stephens contributing 14 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists, Collins adding 11 points and 7 rebounds, and Man Man Baker 10 points and 4 assists.
Dawson had a 12 rebound advantage in the second half and shot 86% from the free throw line on the night, outscoring the visitors 18-3 from the line. Head Coach Joe Peterson was relieved, "I feel like we dodged a bullet tonight. The Tribes are a really good team with two of the best players in the league and a really good coach. I think they missed a few shots they normally make and it could have gone either way at the end in such a close game, but I love the way our guys competed, hung tough and made some big plays on both sides of the ball to close out the game. We battled hard on the boards in the second half and took better care of the ball."
The Thunderbirds return home for another Mon Dak Conference game against Miles Community College on Monday night at 7:30 at the Thunderdome.