Dakota College at Bottineau beat United Tribes Technical College 158-154 in a tightly contested junior college game on Wednesday. The ultimate story wasn't the final score, but how the teams got there. United Tribes nearly pulled one of the biggest upsets in history, finishing the game with just two players on the court. That's right, they nearly won despite playing 5-on-2.
Thanks to a myriad of roster issues, United Tribes dressed only five players for the game. That meant all five starters would have to play every minute. They would have too, except foul trouble started. Despite referees committing to not calling any cheap fouls, fouls still started mounting up for the Thunderbirds. Keif Williams was the first to foul out when he was whistled for his fifth foul with 13 seconds to play in regulation.
The game went to overtime tied at 123. Despite playing 5-on-4 for the entire first overtime, the Thunderbirds played the Lumberjacks even. Tied at 138, the game continued to a second overtime. United Tribes appeared to be in good shape early on, building 149-144 lead. Then Augustine Mathias fouled out. The Thunderbirds still managed to cling to a 151-149 lead when Josh Smith got called for his fifth foul.
That left just Trevor Shavehead and Shawn Craig to play the final 57 seconds at a three-player disadvantage. They held tough considering the circumstances. United Tribes even had possession in the final seconds, trailing 156-154 with a chance to win. They weren't able to get a shot up.
"If I could have split those defenders, I think I would have made that shot," Craig said, via the Associated Press. "For sure."
The highlights of the game, which Inforum.com has, are simply incredible. Near the end, everything is a challenge. It's really hard to inbound a ball against press defense when it's 5-on-5. Doing so when it's 5-on-2 seems like an impossible task but the Thunderbirds still managed. Defense is a similar issue. Still, Craig and Shavehead did their best to at least challenge the Lumberjacks. The end of the game really is something to behold. Even the box score is quite the sight.
It took injuries, academic issues, homesickness and 22 fouls to put United Tribes in that position and they almost pulled it off despite it all.