Thunder fall in doubleheader defeats
CLOQUET—Damien Paulson laughed last week after wryly noting that he wished games were shortened five minutes.
“Can’t we just play 35?” the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College men’s basketball coach said of the 40-minute college regulation format before his Thunder were tipped 74-72 by visiting Mesabi Range in yet another waning-second loss last Wednesday night on campus in Cloquet.
FDLTCC (3-13), which was up at halftime, held a 70-61 advantage with three minutes to play, until a string of forced shots and timely turnovers helped the Norsemen on a game-ending 13-2 run toward the two-point win. The Thunder, 82-68 losers to Vermilion Saturday, has now lost five straight.
“We’re still learning how to win those games — we’re playing good basketball, we just have to get that one special play to get us over the hump,” said an optimistic Paulson, now in his third season. “I’m happy. Whether we’re 3-13 or 13-3, or whatever, these guys are going to practice and play hard.”
Still, starting freshman guard Erik Adams, of Carlton, is playing in his first season of collegiate basketball and loves it.
“It’s a lot different than high school,” said Adams, who scored eight points last week, following Danny Alston’s and Kevin Gutter’s 21 and 14, respectively. “Little things have been hurting us, but we’ve been in every game except a few.”
A few too many missed shots troubled the Thunder women in their 86-59 defeat to the Lady Norse, as FDLTCC faired just 6-of-35 from the field in the opening half and made just 23 percent of their attempts to Mesabi’s 43 for the night.
“The ball just wasn’t dropping for any of us,” said Cloquet’s Kami Diver, a sophomore guard who was just 5-of-21 for the game and made only one shot in the opening 20 minutes. “The smallest chip shots didn’t even want to go in.”
“Some days you’re on, some days you’re off,” added freshman guard Claudia Turner, of Esko, who at 4-of-20 shooting, wasn’t much better. “Nothing was going our way.”
Yet, the program is going the right way, as FDLTCC (5-10) — 78-54 victims to Vermilion Saturday — already has a program-record in wins, as well as all nine initial players on a team known for forfeiting games and even seasons in the past due to a lack of players.
“It’s nice to see,” said Mesabi Coach Michael Williams.
“We have the responsibility to represent our school and the basketball program — I think we’re doing a good job with both,” said Diver, 23, a mother of 3-year-old daughter, Rylie.
“[Last week] was just one of those games,” added Coach Laura Sylvester, who is coaching the team alongside FDLTCC Athletic Director Keith Turner. “An off-shooting night won’t kill them. They’re building something.”