Boys basketball: Can Lees make this the year for ’Jacks?
The Dawson-Boyd boys basketball team is 69-9 over the past three years. As good as the Blackjacks have been during that stretch — they’re 21-0 this season — a trip to the state tournament has eluded them.
Southwest Minnesota Christian, last year’s Class A state champion and the state runner-up two years ago, still stands in the way and also happens to be one of the Blackjacks’ final regular-season matchups today in Dawson.
“We always circle them on our schedule,” Blackjacks’ junior forward Michael Lee said. “They’re the best around. We’ve got to beat the best.”
Dawson-Boyd, ranked No. 2 in Class A, fell to the No. 6 Eagles (19-2) in the Section 3A title game in each of the past two years and could potentially get a third rematch this season. But Blackjacks’ head coach Cory Larson said they can’t get caught up looking that far ahead.
“Our subsection definitely is a lot deeper than (Southwest’s) subsection,” Larson said. “They have two teams above .500. I don’t think anyone in their sub has given them a game inside 15 or 20 points. In ours, all the way down to our No. 6 seed is above .500. We’re going to have to play two very solid basketball games to get to a section championship.”
Despite losing an excellent shooter in Nathanial Huot, the Blackjacks haven’t missed a beat this year in large part to the play of 6-foot-1 senior point guard Joey Lee and the 6-foot-5 Michael Lee.
“Everyone’s just got more experience and have grown as players,” Michael Lee said. “We had Nathanial last year but he’s really the only one we lost.”
Larson said the team is better than last year’s in certain aspects.
“We’ve had a couple kids fill (Huot’s) void which has maybe made us a little bit better,” Larson said. “Instead of having to defend three kids you have to defend all five.”
Michael Lee, who was All-Camden Conference last season and averaged 17.2 points per game as a sophomore, has only gotten better.
This year he’s averaging a double-double (22.8 points, 11.9 rebounds), while also picking up 3.1 assists, 1.2 blocks and 2.3 steals per game.
“We’re playing at a high level right now,” Michael Lee said. “I’ve definitely improved as a shooter since last year, I’ve gotten quicker and more explosive.”
Michael Lee has become the center of the Blackjacks’ offense, Larson said.
“He’s a great all-around player,” Larson said. “He jumps well, shoots well from the outside, plays well with his back to the basket … he’s a tough kid to defend because if you put a smaller kid on him he’s going to post you up and if you put a bigger kid on him that’s not as quick he’s going to take that kid off the dribble.”
Joey Lee, last year’s Camden Conference North MVP, is averaging 18.6 points, 4.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game.
He’s not only a strong scorer, Larson said.
“He’s good with the ball and he’s good without it,” Larson said. “He’s an extremely good defender and his overall understanding of the game is phenomenal. His leadership is top-notch.”
The Lees, who are cousins, grew up playing ball together.
“(Joey Lee’s) pretty much like my brother,” Michael Lee said. “We’re neighbors and just hang out all the time. We played in each other’s backyards dreaming about being able to play varsity and it’s kind of a reality now.”
“(Both Lees) have continued to get better,” Larson said. “They want to be the last ones to receive any credit and the other kids kind of feed off that. As much success as they’ve had, they don’t talk about it — they let everybody else talk about it and enjoy playing the game.”