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Fans fuel Fond du Lac to school history

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DULUTH—During last Friday’s Section 7A boys basketball final, Cameron Thompson and his Fond du Lac Ojibwe teammates played before more than 2,000 fans — and another who wasn’t there in person, but holds a special place in the junior forward’s heart.

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Thompson scored 20 points, including 13 during a second-half surge to send the Ogichidaa past South Ridge 77-60 last week at Duluth Denfeld High School and to their tiny tribal school’s first-ever state boys basketball tournament.

After his career night in the biggest game of his 17-year-old life, the 6-foot, 220-pound Thompson devoted the emotional win to his late father, Cheyenne Thompson, who was tragically killed in a car accident 13 years ago.

“I dedicated this game to him,” Thompson said afterward.

The game was a seesaw type until the FDL (24-3) players found their rhythm in a second half when the savvy Thompson took control and Davonte Williamson added 18 of his game-best 26 points to pull away from a 28-26 halftime advantage.

Although well-below their state-leading 90.4 points per game average and being held under 80 points for just the fourth time this season, the Ogichidaa looked overpowering.

“We go up and down and find the hot hand,” said a smiling Williamson, wearing the net around his neck after the game.

“We work on getting [our opponents] tired and then jumping in the passing lanes,” FDL Coach Earl Otis said.

Dexter Delille did that a couple times last week on his way to 11 points, including several sensational driving layups.

“They’ll be able to score with anybody,” said South Ridge Coach Carl Grussendorf, whose team was led by Dominic Janke’s 14 points — surpassing 1,000 for his career — while Colton Peterson and Kody Karppinen had 14 and 13, respectively, for the Panthers (23-4). “We have some classy, quality kids who will be missed. We just came up to the short end of the stick.”

The Ogichidaa, which snapped South Ridge’s previous 54-day, 16-game winning streak, began last week’s game with an honorary flag song with a dominant drum beat, while celebratory fans stuck around until the gym lights turned out.

“There are no words to describe this,” said lone senior Trevontae Brown, holding the section title trophy afterward.

“It’s beyond anything I’ve ever experienced,” added Bruce Martineau outside a rowdy Ogichidaa locker room.

“I can’t even say how happy I am for them,” Otis said.

Delille was most happy for the fans they played for, noting the throngs of support they’ve gotten all season long.

“It’s hard not to hear them,” he said of the raucous noise.

Especially the ones that come from the heart.