High school hoops tournament opens with ‘Ogichidaag fever’

There’s a pretty fair chance the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School boys basketball team — known as the Ogichidaag — won’t get the attention the big city studs at this week’s Minnesota State High School League basketball tournament will get — they’re just a Class A team — but the squad appears to have all the qualities of a Cinderella team.

They’ve never been to a state tournament before, winning their first sectional title this year. They’ve got 10 players in a school of a few hundred dozen students. Some of the boys were concerned about playing in a venue like the cavernous Williams Arena. But this afternoon the Cloquet team beat fourth-seed Canby, 85-to-82 in triple overtime to stay alive in the state tournament.

Two of the players fouled out. Two others played all three overtimes with four fouls in today’s game. They could’ve folded. Fond du Lac Ojibwe led by 17 in the second half, before Canby went on a 19-2 run to tie the game with a minute left in regulation.

Pressure? No pressure. Check the faces of the kids at the ceremony last week, when Frank Goodwin, Anishinaabe spiritual and cultural advisor, sent them off to the sectional game. (h/t: JP Rennquist)

“I’m just looking for a lifetime moment for my boys,” head coach Earl Otis told Northland News Center.

Junior forward Cameron Thompson said he was excited to have his whole community “coming together and just being one for once.”

“The community is really great,” Trevontae Brown, the only senior on the team, told NNC. “Everywhere we go, there’s someone coming up to us to say we’re doing a good job or we had a good game. It’s a big deal to the community.”

The Ogichidaag will now play Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa High School — the top seed in the Class A tournament — tomorrow afternoon. A win sends them to a game Saturday afternoon for a state title.