Ogichida falls to state-ranked Cass Lake-Bena 91-80

CLOQUET - Just a few years ago, the bleachers at the Fond du Lac Ojibwe High School gymnasium were nearly empty when the Ogichida boys basketball team took the court.

CLOQUET - Just a few years ago, the bleachers at the Fond du Lac Ojibwe High School gymnasium were nearly empty when the Ogichida boys basketball team took the court.

Nowadays, it's tough to get a ticket.

Before a standing-room-only crowd Saturday afternoon, FDL battled back and forth with No. 6 state-ranked Cass Lake-Bena as the Ogichida lost a highly-entertaining game 91-80 on their home floor.

"We played really well today," said FDL head coach Andrew DePoe. "These boys have a lot of pure talent and really put on a show for everyone."

The fast-paced contest started quickly, as both quick offensives racked up the points. By the time they hit the locker rooms, the Panthers had a 45-42 lead.


The game continued with its up-and-down style of play throughout the second frame with Cass Lake-Bena eventually running off to the nine-point non-conference victory.

"We played Cass Lake-Bena during a summer tournament once and beat them," said DePoe. "We knew coming in they were going to be tough, but we knew we could keep up with them. I believe in my boys and think they can beat anyone who steps out on the court against them."

DePoe, who took over the struggling Ogichida program last season, turned things around in the blink of an eye, as FDL posted an eye-popping 20-4 record a season ago, while also earning the first-ever playoff victory for any sport in school history.

And it's that swift success that has led state-ranked teams like the Panthers to the Ogichida schedule this winter. FDL (3-3) has also gone up against Minnesota Transitions Charter and have yet to play Willmar and Chisholm - all teams currently ranked in the state polls.

"Our boys really enjoy playing these big-time schools," added DePoe. "This is what we want for our program. I told these boys at the beginning of the season that if they want to be the best, they have to play the best. And they're up to the challenge."

The Ogichida aren't in an assigned conference, however. Instead, they play an independent schedule which allows them to challenge top-ranked clubs in addition to other tribal schools around the state. Come playoff time, FDL competes in Section 7A, where they don't get much respect, but they are hoping to change that in March.

"The boys have started something special around here," said DePoe. "They want to go to state and be the first team to hang that banner in our school. They can do it. I have faith in them."

Before Saturday's closely-contested loss, the Ogichida drilled Lac Courte Oreilles, Wis., 83-24 to add to victories against Inter District Downtown School of Minneapolis and Ascension of Prestige Academy of Minneapolis.


"These boys are good," said DePoe. "They've been playing together for a long time now, but have never known the 'team' concept of the game. Now they're playing as a team and are really enjoying themselves."

FDL was guided by junior Travis Brown's impressive 30-point performance on Saturday, while sophomores Lee St. John and Trevor Brown chipped in 21 and 18 points, respectively.

KC Conners, Dewey Dupuis and Scott Abramowski found the box score, while junior varsity standouts Dominic Johnson-Fuller, Timmy Morgan, Trevontae Brown and Eli Munoz suited up to support their squad, which has only one senior.

The Ogichida were back in action in Ely Tuesday night when this edition of the Pine Journal went to press. They'll also take part in the Willmar Holiday Invitational Saturday, Dec. 26, and Monday, Dec. 28.

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