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Thunder women are not giving up

FDLTCC first-year student MaKayleigh Cahoon (33) works around defenders from Gogebic Community College at a home game in December. Tom Urbanski/For the Pine Journal1 / 2
Kami Diver of Cloquet brings the ball up the court during the Thunder's last battle with Gogebic Community College. Tom Urbanski/For the Pine Journal2 / 2

Raised in the small countryside township of Tamarack, 12 miles west of Cromwell, MaKayleigh Cahoon would shoot a basketball for hours on her family's hoop on the garage.

"I remember playing with my brother in the rain quite a few times," Cahoon said. "I don't think there were many days that I didn't go out and play. I never get tired of playing basketball."

Physically tired often while playing for the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College women's basketball program as a freshman forward this winter, Cahoon, like her teammates, has carried herself exceptionally well. Battling injuries, sickness and lack of numbers, the team has just seven players, as the fifth-year Thunder has lost all 15 of this season's games, including four forfeitures.

On occasion, the Thunder women (0-15) - still seeking their first-ever official win since the program's inauguration in 2008-09 - have started games with five players and finished with just four.

"It's hard playing 40 minutes every game," said the first-year Cahoon, a Cromwell-Wright graduate last year. "Playing with five girls basically the whole first semester, it's definitely been a challenge. We try to keep our heads up the best we can."

Cahoon has hurt her head on several occasions this season, suffering a concussion, while other teammates have been out as well.

Freshman point guard Kami Diver has battled sickness and an injured left foot - and the Cloquet native is currently playing with fractured left rib. Shelby Halverson and Shauna Goodman have been the only healthy players not to miss, as teammates Natasha Dragicevich and Sarah Sample have also been on-and-off for the winless program that lost to Minnesota College Athletic Conference rival Itasca 65-50 Saturday afternoon in Cloquet.

"We haven't been able to catch a break," said Diver, who led the Thunder with 18 points Saturday, followed by Cahoon's 14 and Sample's 10. "We've had bad luck, but there's no point to make it miserable. We have fun and are a pretty dedicated team."

First-year Coach Tim Myles agreed. He said he had a mid-season meeting with the girls about possibly forfeiting the season, but revealed his players said that was never going to be an option.

"In my eyes, it's amazing what they are doing," Myles said. "For what they have to endure, it's unbelievable - they never quit, but just keep coming back. To be honest, if I had a team of 12, I don't think they'd have the effort and attitude of these girls I have."

"The college should be proud of those girls," FDLTCC men's Coach Damien Paulson added. "They're just busting their tails."

Paulson's Thunder team has been on the tail end of 13 straight games, losing to Itasca Saturday in Cloquet. FDLTCC (3-14) has only beat Rainy River twice, and Wisconsin-Barron County - all three which came prior to Thanksgiving.

"We've been in games at halftime, we've just had little lulls where we lose it in the second," said Paulson, noting his well-rounded team of 11 players. "We're still hoping to make a playoff run. If not, though, we'll continue to play hard. We need to."