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Cougars wear down Big Reds

Dakota rides press to victory

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The phrase “kick it up a notch” may have become famous on a TV cooking show, but the Dakota basketball team could adopt it as its motto.

Dakota recently began employing a sticky full-court pressure defense and the strategy played a key role in the Cougars’ 56-42 win Friday over rival Chippewa Valley.

Dakota turned a handful of Big Reds’ turnovers into points, but the biggest benefit of the press seemed to be forcing the Cougars to play aggressively throughout the game.

“That’s our thing right now, just playing hard together as a team,” Dakota Coach Paul Tocco said. “Especially on the road against your rival. That’s a good time to play hard.

“We’ve pressured before, but we’ve never gone full-court man. I think our team speed has increased and we’re a little bit deeper.”

Tocco believes the fast-paced brand of basketball suits his team.

“I feel we’re better in the open court than if we set it up,” he said. “With full-court pressure, that allows us to have those opportunities offensively.”

He didn’t have to sell the style change to his players.

“At the beginning of the season we were more of a half-court team, but lately we’ve been getting up on people,” said Dakota senior Kyle Stafford. “We’re the type of team that needs to run, so we should do full-court man to man.”

The win lifted Dakota to 6-6 in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division and 10-8 overall, while Chippewa Valley fell to 4-8 and 9-9.

Ten players scored for the Cougars, led by Brian’s Orr’s 14 points. Quartrell Irby, Andrew Burmeister and Stafford each scored eight points and freshman Steven Marshall had six.

“I feel like a lot of people on the bench stepped up today,” said Stafford. “As long as we get a team victory it doesn’t matter. We have a lot of different people that score each game so every game’s different.”

Senior Jerry Taylor paced the Big Reds with 20 points, while Xavian Edwards added six.

Chippewa Valley scored the final six points of the first quarter to lead 11-9.

Midway through the second quarter, Dakota began a 9-0 scoring streak to lead 21-15 at halftime.

The Cougars then scored the first four points of the third quarter to take a 10-point, 25-15 edge. Chippewa Valley countered shortly thereafter with a 7-2 run to get within 29-24.

The Big Reds would close within five and three points late in the third quarter, but both times Stafford bombed in 3-pointers to squelch any momentum Chippewa Valley might have gained.

The Cougars led 39-32 after three quarters, with Taylor keeping the Big Reds in the game with 10 third-quarter points.

Taylor hit a 3-point shot early in the fourth quarter, then converted a 3-point play and the Big Reds were within 43-40 with 5:03 to play in the fourth.

Dakota took command for good, however, outscoring Chippewa Valley 14-6 to take a 53-41 lead with just 1:34 to play in the fourth quarter.

Last Updated: 2/25/2013 10:43:30 AM EST