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Thunder wraps up second season

Steven Lyke of Brookston (34), a sophomore at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, goes up for two points against Central Lakes College (Brainerd, Minn.) in February. The Thunder lost 98-71. Photo Courtesy of Tom Urbanski.

The second season of Thunder basketball at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College for both the men's and women's teams showed improvement despite posting similar win-loss records in both years.

Leading the way for the Thunder men included a solid group of local players who came primarily from the Polar League Conference. Two Barnum alums, sophomore guards Curtis Houle and Dylan Eggen, provided leadership and scoring punch for the Thunder. Houle averaged 18.5 points per game, good enough for fourth highest in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference Northern Division. Houle led the team in three-point shooting percentage at 33.3 percent and earned Northern Division Conference player of the Week Honors. Eggen led the team in free throw percentage at 90 percent and caused opponents fits with his clutch three-point shooting ability.

Steve Lyke, a sophomore forward from Floodwood, became a force on the boards, grabbing 240 total rebounds and was second overall in the league with a 10.0 rebounds per game average. Lyke averaged 11.9 points per game in scoring and earned Northern Division Conference Player of the Week Honors. Lyke and Houle are currently being recruited by Division II colleges.

Two Harbors grad Dave Gomes, a sophomore guard, was a dependable sixth man off the bench, shooting 30 percent from three-point range and helped rally his teammates at important times during games.

Second-year point guard LaDarius Frazier of Kansas City, Kan., led the team with 124 assists and 74 steals, which also put him second overall in the league rankings with 5.3 assists per game and 3.2 steals per game averages. Frazier also averaged 10 points per game in scoring. Frazier is being recruited by several Division II colleges.

Freshman forward Greg Gillespie of Greenwood, Ind., was second on the team in scoring with a 13.5 per game average. Gillespie will return next year, along with guard Justin Roberts of Tallahassee, Fla., forward Travis Huesers of Cass Lake, Minn., guard Harrison Woods of Mobile, Ala., and center Kevin Lyke of LeSeuer, Minn. Graduating from the team this year are two-year player Jason Morrisroe of Cloquet and forward Joshua Miron of Princeton, Minn. Wrenshall alum and guard Chris Hansmann joined the team mid-season and completed his second year of community college eligibility.

"I wasn't sure if I would play college basketball but I decided to enroll at Fond du Lac and play on the first Thunder basketball team," said Dylan Eggen. "I was totally surprised at how good the quality of basketball is at this level, it's definitely better than what most people think. It's much faster and more athletic than high school."

The Thunder men finished the season with a 5 win, 18 loss record, good enough for seventh place out of eight teams in the Northern Division of the Minnesota College Athletic Conference. Highlights included two conference wins against rival Itasca Community College.

"This was a nice season of growth for us," said head coach David Wilson. "We were much more competitive this season and had greater depth of players on the team. One of the things we need to improve on is team defense and holding leads. We were great in the first half of games, usually going into the locker room with a decent lead, but we just couldn't hold on to it at the end of games. Changing leads and close scores make the games exciting for spectators, but they really can give a coach a headache.

"I'm looking forward to next year and getting the new talent on the floor," continued Wilson. "Next year will be our third season, so it's the start of a whole new group, which brings new enthusiasm and new energy to the gym and to our returning players."

Despite a winless record at 0-22, the Thunder women's squad had a much-improved product over their debut season last year. Optimism was high at the start of the season when 13 players reported to practice, but injuries and eligibility issues slimmed the team down to just six players at the end of the season.

"I was very, very proud of the way the team competed hard to the end and maintained an incredible chemistry on and off the court," said Thunder women's head coach Jen MacKay. "We were a better team in February than we were in October. That is a goal every team tries to achieve."

Leading the Thunder women was sophomore transfer forward Brady Donnahue of Floodwood. Donnahue led the Northern Division of the conference in three-point shooting percentage with a 48.4 percent season average, making 61 of 126 attempts. Donnahue also led the Thunder scoring with a 13.5 points-per-game average. She will be transferring to the University of North Dakota next year.

"Our team had the best time playing together this year," said Donnahue. "Personally, it was my best season because it was so much fun. It was frustrating at times because we didn't win but I became a better player going against skilled players and tough competition. I think the opportunity to play college ball at Fond du Lac is one of the best jumps to make, going from high school to college. You really learn about yourself and the game of basketball."

Freshman forward Lisa Muehlberger of Duluth Central was fifth overall in the conference in field goal shooting percentage with a 46.3 percent average. Muehlberger was also a solid rebounder, pulling down double-digits rebounds in several games and scoring a game-high 25 points against Itasca.

Freshman guards Darian Bushey of Barnum, Haley Lund of Proctor, and Amber Buckanaga of McGregor handled perimeter duties and bringing the ball up the court. Freshman forward Elizabeth McKenzie of Cass Lake contributed many minutes of playing time in the lane. Bushey led the team in scoring in several games.