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Thunder finish best season ever in fifth place

Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College guard Greg Thirdkill moves the ball down the court against Rainy River Community College Saturday. Thirdkill scored 20 points in the 107-90 loss, which was the last game of the season for the Thunder. Tyler Northey/news@pinejournal.com1 / 3
Dillon Johnson, a Cloquet High School alumnus and Thunder forward, controls the ball as he eyes the court in front of him Saturday against Rainy River Community College. Tyler Northy/news@pinejournal.com2 / 3
Thunder guard and Wrenshall grad Jesse Ellerbe brings the ball down the court in Saturday's matchup against Rainy River Community College. Tyler Northey/news@pinejournal.com3 / 3

The evolution of the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College men's basketball team continues under the guidance of head coach Damian Paulson. The Thunder completed their season on Saturday with a tough loss at the hands of Rainy River Community College by the score of 107-90. The loss eliminated the Thunder from the state Minnesota College Athletic Conference (MCAC) tournament.

"We finished fifth for the second season in a row and the improvement of the program continues," Paulson said. "The top four teams get into the state tournament — a win on Saturday and we would have been in the tournament."

A tough start to the game put the Thunder down 15-0 early and they were never able to fully overcome the sluggish beginning.

"We kept chipping away after we got down early," recalled Paulson. "We got the lead down to eight points a couple of times in the second half and I thought if we could have gotten over that hump that we would have come back, but we just couldn't get there."

The early lead by the Voyageurs not only put the Thunder in a deep hole, but it also appeared to confound the hometown team. At halftime Rainy River held a 52-35 lead on the Thunder.

"I think we got a little flustered, but then we fought back and fought back hard," said Paulson. "The guys didn't quit and they kept working hard which is all you can ask."

The Thunder featured five players in double-figure scoring with Greg Thirdkill's 20 points leading the way. Raymond White recorded 19 points for the Thunder, while Darius Williams scored 17, DaQuan Braxton finished with 15 and Cloquet High School alumnus Jordan Diver chipped in with 14 points for FDLTCC.

"I am very happy with the season, but it would have been nice to win and take that next step for the program," Paulson said. "We finished fifth in the conference and have climbed over three other schools, now we have to continue to make more strides as a program."

The Thunder finished the season with a school conference record of 7-7 and the best overall record in school history of 11-13.

"It shows we are going in the right direction," Paulson said. "Hopefully next year we can do even better."

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