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Thunderbirds upset top-seeded Titans

Treston Spalla (23) and Paeker Syverson (21) hug an emotional Dion Bower at the conclusion of the Thunderbirds' one-point upset of top-seeded Norman County East/Ulen-Hitterdal at Concordia College Saturday afternoon in Section 6A basketball. Robert Williams / Tribune

Norman County East/Ulen-Hitterdal’s Dawson Fox made seven three-point baskets but it was not enough to get by familiar foes Mahnomen-Waubun in a thrilling north subsection semifinal in Section 6A boys basketball at Concordia College in Moorhead Saturday.

The final make from the arc by Fox came in the waning seconds that left the top-seeded Titans one point shy 54-53.

The Thunderbirds did not have to inbound the ball as they watched the clock wind down to move on to the subsection finals.


“We have so many players who can play and it seems like they relied on two or three; it’s a team effort,” said senior guard Dion Bower.

Bower made three critical free throws late in the game. He gave the Thunderbirds a five-point lead, 53-48, with 35-seconds remaining.

The Titans’ Toby Bjerklie sank a field goal to get back to within three points and Bower found himself at the stripe in the double bonus. He made his second attempt, which was the deciding point.

“We had so much confidence coming in, as a team, just a great win for us,” said Bower.

Mahnomen-Waubun erupted out of the halftime break erasing a 32-26 deficit with a 17-2 run to lead 43-34.

“We talked about how we have to move the ball more on offense and defensively, we struggled in the first half; we knew we were going to come out and play the way we do. Basically, we got this. We got this.” junior Parker Syverson said.

NCE/UH responded with a 14-5 run of their own to tie the game 48-48 with 4:50 left in regulation. The Thunderbirds managed to protect the lead to the horn keeping Fox and the Titans at bay.

“Fox is a good player,” said Syverson. “He’s the toughest player I’ve had to guard all season, no doubt about it. He’s a great shooter, hats off to him.”

The Titans controlled the scoreboard for much of a first half that saw only three lead changes. NCE/UH broke out to a 7-0 lead to start the game and held the lead until back-to-back three pointers by Bower and Syverson tied the game 18-18 at the eight-minute mark.

“Just staying together and playing basketball, that’s all,” Syverson said.


Syverson made a putback on a missed three to give the Thunderbirds their lone lead of the half 20-18.

Noah Klemetson and Cody Peterick scored successive buckets to put the Titans back in front 23-20 and NCE/UH outscored M-W 9-6 down the stretch to lead 32-26 at the break.

Fox led all scorers with 21 points. He was the lone Titan in double figures.

Bower led the Thunderbirds with 18 points. Jayden Heisler came up with key buckets at critical times to put in 15 points. Syverson added a dozen.

The Titans finish the year 24-4, two of those losses coming to the Thunderbirds.

Mahnomen-Waubun improves to 16-13 and will face the winner of No. 3 Henning and No. 7 Lake Park-Audubon in the north subsection final Monday, March 12 at 6 p.m. back at Concordia College in Moorhead.

Despite being two games away from the state tournament, the focus of the Thunderbirds is on the task at hand.

“We’re not thinking about that; we’ve got one game to go,” said Bower. “Survive and advance, that’s what we go by.”

M-W 26 28 - 54

NCE  32 21 - 53

NCE-Dawson Fox 21, Noah Klemetson 8, Cody Peterick 6, Isaac Habedank 6, Toby Bjerklie 7, Kole McCollum 3, Isaac Stene 2.

MW-Jayden Heisler 15, Dion Bower 18, Parker Syverson 12, Treston Spalla 7, Jon Starkey 2.

Robert Williams

Sports Editor at the Detroit Lakes Tribune. Williams worked prior as the Sports Editor in Perham for the Focus, a Forum Communications newspaper, from 2010-14. 

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