DAWSON?- For a soft-spoken kid like Dawson-Boyd's Michael Lee, his game speaks volumes.
Through his resilient lead by example mentality, Lee's diligence has led the Blackjacks to a flawless 18-0 start to their 2013-2014 season.
On Jan. 28, the Blackjacks were looking to Camden Conference and Section 3A rival Minneota in what developed into a fight to the finish battle. The pressure mounted late in the game, when both teams were tied at the end of regulation before Dawson-Boyd captured and 81-76 overtime victory.
"It felt great because it was the closest game we had all year," said Lee. "We had to fight through a lot of adversity to get there."
But that victory over Minneota meant a great deal more than just another win in the left-hand column for Lee, who led the Blackjacks with a career-high 40 points and 21 rebounds. It was enough to land him in Dawson-Boyd record books with a 1,000 point career behind his name.
"I knew I had a size advantage over most of the guys on their team. So, I was able to get a lot of offensive rebounds and putbacks," said Lee. "But I had no idea until the end of the game what I had accomplished. I was really surprised."
Lee's blend of height, hustle and finesse has made him one of the most unstoppable players on in Southwest Minnesota. Standing 6-foot-4, he is a force to be reckoned with in the paint.
Averaging 23.9 points and 11.4 rebounds per game, Lee capitalizes on his size advantage.
"My team needs me to score and secure rebounds when I have the advantage over those kids," Lee said. "We are a pretty guard-oriented team. So, I have to play good offense and defense in the post."
The Blackjacks throttle opponents from three-point range, knocking down 87 field goals from beyond in the arc in their first 18 games. This success is attributed to the team's ability to utilize an inside-out game play, running the play through Lee inside.
"We kind of thought, coming into this season, he would be our leading scorer and rebounder," said Dawson-Boyd head coach Cory Larson. "Offensively, he is the guy we center things around."
Lee pointed to Dawson-Boyd's strong play on the perimeter.
"We have some great shooters on our team," said Lee. "It works well to kick it inside first then work it outside to open things up our shooters."
On defense, Lee's size and speed has challenged his adversaries.
"He is very strong defender and he has the ability to defend point guards or defend the big guy," Larson said.
Lee leads the Blackjacks with 24 blocked shots, using his extended wingspan to challenge competitor's shots. He has also snagged 123 of his 173 rebounds on the defensive end.
"I really like playing defense on the other team's best player," said Lee. "It's a lot of fun to shut them down."
In his third season as a Blackjack, Lee has developed his natural athletic ability into a leadership role, not only of his team, but also in the area.
"My first year I was mostly just a role player," said Lee. "I played more defense and rebounded the ball but last year I had to score a little bit more."
Lee is currently third in the area with scoring with 395 points and fourth in rebounds with 193.
Aside from his success on the court, Lee has also established himself as a team leader.
"Michael has stepped-up and started getting more vocal," said Larson. "He has always worked hard and led by example, but now we start to see him with more confidence, maturing and growing into more of a leader and helping to make our team better."
Lee is not only a standout athlete on the court but was also a wide receiver on the Blackjacks' football squad that placed second at the Class A state tournament last fall. Lee believes his schools success on the gridiron has carried over into basketball season.
"Everyone expects to win every game because of the success we had in football," said Lee. "You never want to lose and everyone knows what it takes to win. So, we just get it done."
The Blackjacks basketball team has fallen one game short of the state tournament the last two consecutive seasons, losing to Southwest Minnesota State Christian in the section finals both years. This doesn't discourage Lee and his teammates but, instead, drives them to reach that next level.
"In football, before we made it to state, we lost in the section championship a couple times," said Lee. "We have done the same thing in basketball. So, hopefully, we can break through and make it to state."
Dawson-Boyd has stepped onto the court 18 times this season and have outplayed every opponent they've met, claiming the only remaining undefeated record in the area.
"You never really look and think you are going to be undefeated, you just expect to be competitive and play good basketball," said Larson. "As the season goes on, we continue to grow and hopefully we are where you need to be come playoff time."
As the season dwindles down, the Blackjacks look to put their record aside and continue to create opportunities towards the team's ultimate goal of reaching the state tournament.