Three musketeers of DSU basketball

Dickinson State women's basketball seniors Mariah Duran, Dawne Degel and Jess Bygate are like the three musketeers. They have been inseparable. But with today's final home game against Carroll College, the idea is beginning to sink in that it's t...

Dawne Degel
Press Photo by Meaghan MacDonald Dickinson State senior guard Dawne Degel, right, to pass the ball against a Westminster College defender in a Frontier Conference game on Jan. 30 at Scott Gymnasium.

Dickinson State women’s basketball seniors Mariah Duran, Dawne Degel and Jess Bygate are like the three musketeers. They have been inseparable.
But with today’s final home game against Carroll College, the idea is beginning to sink in that it’s the final time the three will play together at home.
Despite the emotions and the scary thought of life after basketball, Duran, Degel and Bygate have vowed to remain best friends for years to come.
“With being away from your family and knowing you have other girls who have been through the same thing, and you can trust and rely on, it literally makes you like sisters,” Degel said. “I can definitely say Mariah and Jess will be some of my lifelong friends. I’m just really thankful for them.”
Each player transferred to DSU at a different time and from different parts of the world.
But during the two years they’ve spent together, the three have found common ground in how they lead and how they want the program to be run, making it easier for them to become successful leaders.
DSU head coach Mark Graupe describes Duran, Degel and Bygate as perfectly fitting the team’s mold.
They’re blue-collar players who don’t give up and put forth their best effort on the court, in the weight room and especially in the classroom. Graupe has only known them for five months - this is his first year as head coach - but they’ve made a massive impact on him.
“They lead by example. They’re not necessarily vocal all the time, but they lead by example they do things the right way,” Graupe said. “Whether it’s academics … That goes for the way I’m recruiting, I’m trying to get girls who are similar to what we have right now to our seniors.”
Duran, Degel and Bygate each represent a different section of leadership and when put together mesh perfectly. Duran is extremely competitive and what Graupe calls his “little spark plug.” Duran is a steady presence and has logged the most minutes of anyone.

Graupe said he feels comfortable leaving her in because of her intensity, energy and competitiveness.

Degel has always been upbeat and positive on the court and on the bench. When she is sitting on the bench, Degel is constantly cheering on her fellow teammates and congratulating them when they get off the court.
Bygate’s talent on the court is something to be envied. She has several tools in her game which makes her one of the Blue Hawks’ biggest weapons offensively and defensively. She has the ability to make shots around the perimeter and drive inside, but defensively she is a game changer with her rebounding skills and ability to use her 6-foot-1 frame to alter her opponent’s shots.
In their time at DSU, Duran, Degel and Bygate have made the most of the basketball program and made it their own. Each player has found it has changed them in their own unique way. They also have taken away special memories.
“There’s so many things basketball has taught me over the years - especially from being in America and putting myself in these situations - and made me grow as a person in ways I wouldn’t have been able to do if I have had stayed at home,” said Bygate, a New Zealand native.
Duran added: “The whole thing isn’t about scoring, winning games, and making baskets and plays. It’s about the memories you have with the girls and how you learn life lessons while you get to play a sport you love.”
Their senior season hasn’t gone to plan.
It’s been hectic between the death of their teammate Janae Moore last summer, the abrupt exit of former head coach Caleb Harrison and the hiring of Graupe. The team is 13-14 overall and 2-9 since Jan. 2.
Despite the rocky road, Duran, Degel and Bygate said this season has been far more enjoyable because of the connection the three have. That and having Graupe around.
“He made us enjoy the game a lot more,” Bygate said. “Last year wasn’t the most enjoyable but we stuck at it and got through it. But this year it’s been enjoyable to come to practice, enjoyable to want to keep being out on the court.”
Basketball has been everything to Duran, Degel and Bygate. But with three games left, it’s almost over.
“Honestly I couldn’t have gotten through this year without Jess and Dawne. I wouldn’t want to end basketball with anyone else,” Duran said, teary eyed. “They’re going to be my best friends forever.”

Jess Bygate
Photo by Meaghan MacDonald Dickinson Stae senior forward Jess Bygate, left, tries to rebound the ball over Montana State-Northern junior forward Megan Feldman in a Frontier Conference game on Jan. 4 at Scott Gymnasium.

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