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Danielson leads Dakota Prairie to state 'B'

Rugby graduate in second season with Knights program

March 20, 2009
Matt Mullally

The location for Dakota Prairie's final practice before the Class B state boys basketball tournament last week was unfamiliar to the players, but not for Knights' head coach Rich Danielson.

"It wasn't very long ago I was playing in here,'' said Danielson as he looked around RHS' Charles Hanneman Gymnasium. "This was the site of many memories."

The 2002 Rugby graduate is forming new ones now as the coach of Dakota Prairie. The Knights are making their first trip the state tournament since the consolidation between the schools began in 1996-97. The school district encompasses the towns of Tolna, Michigan, Petersburg, McVille and Aneta.

"Hopefully, this will bring more unity to the towns which used to be rivals,'' Danielson said. "This has been a good group of players to work with and have embraced the 'team first' attitude."

Rugby happened to be nearly the midway point between DP and Minot, the site of this year's tournament, and the school was willing to allow Danielson's team to get an afternoon shoot around in on Wednesday, March 18 before continuing on to Minot.

He told his team prior to the tournament he hopes they were not simply satisfied with just getting to state.

Fact Box

N.D. Class B Boys Basketball Tournament


Thursday, March 19

Quarterfinal results

North Sargent 75, North Star 64

Linton 66, Watford City 63

Turtle Lake-Mercer 46, Bowman Co. 43

Dakota Prairie 65, Berthold-LC 52

Friday, March 20


North Star vs. Watford City

Bowman Co. vs. Berthold-LC


North Sargent vs. Linton

Turtle Lake-Mercer vs. Dakota Prairie

Saturday, March 21

Seventh place, 1 p.m.; Fifth place, 25 minutes following the conclusion of previous game; Third place 6:30 p.m.; Championship, 25 minutes following the conclusion of the previous game.

"We want to enjoy the experience, but also play as well as we can,'' he said.

DP opened the Class B state tournament facing Berthold-Lewis and Clark on Thursday evening, March 19 in a quarterfinal. The tournament wraps up today, March 21.

Quite a season

It appeared the Knights program would be in a rebuilding mode after losing four starters off a 16-6 region-qualifying team a year ago.

However, DP showed it was quite capable of being a region contender.

"I think that fact we didn't have many veteran players forced us to grow up together, we had to all contribute,'' said Danielson, who shared the varsity coaching duties last season with Randy Severson.

Following a solid regular season, the Knights entered the District 3 Tournament as the top seed, but fell to Thompson for the tournament title.

DP shook off that loss, winning three games at the Region 2 Tournament in Grand Forks. The Knights defeated North Border (Walhalla-Neche) in the opening round; stunned Park River in the semifinals; and then knocked off Grafton, the defending state champion, in the finals.

"In that Park River game we were down by nine points heading into the fourth quarter and finished the game on a 21-0 run,'' he said.

That comeback gave the team a lot of confidence and it carried over into the title against Grafton.

Danielson, 25, attended North Dakota State University and graduated in 2007 with a degree in education and has spent the past two years teaching junior high and freshman science in Petersburg.

He admits many of his Rugby teachers left a deep impression on him, contributing to his decision to go into education.

Coaching is like an extension of the classroom, but it's also been a learning experience for Danielson. "There is a lot (about coaching) that goes on that I know I didn't think about when I was playing,'' he said. "You're the one everyone comes to. You have a lot to manage."

Danielson said a lot of the drills, or motivational talks with his team go back to his former Rugby coach - Greg Foster.

"I draw on my experiences and remember things he said that inspired or moved me, and try and incorporate some of that into my team,'' he said.

Rich resides in McVille, and that's also where his parents, Steve and Karen Danielson, now reside.



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