IRONWOOD - The ending may not have been executed perfectly, but 5-0 is 5-0.
The Gogebic Community College Samsons won their home opener 73-66 over Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College Tuesday at the Lindquist Center.
"In my wildest dreams, I didn't think we'd be 5-0 at this point," Gogebic coach Dennis Mackey said. "But at the same time, every game we go to, we expect to win. With our size, or lack of, we've had to do certain things by committee. I'm happy."
With the game in the balance in the final minutes, Gogebic rushed plays and turned it over. But it also made big plays, including fighting for three offensive rebounds and getting fouled on the fourth attempt for a late pair of free throws.
"Obviously we didn't play real smart down the stretch, made a couple ill-advised decisions," Mackey said. "But for the most part, we battled hard. We stayed with it on defense and I thought that was the key. We limited them to one shot late in the game, in the last eight, nine minutes. I think that was critical to our success."
The Samsons typically aren't home until Thanksgiving weekend when it hosts the Lindquist Classic. This was a good early preview for local fans of the 2013-14 Samsons.
Gogebic held a small lead much of the first half, and made a couple of big plays late in the first half to ensure it led at the half, 40-33.
GCC's Tarius Hagood saved a ball from going out of bounds on the baseline under the Gogebic basket and LaDell Hickman was able to drain a 3 and draw one of the louder cheers from the crowd. That put GCC up 38-31.
Fond du Lac had the fanciest play of the night as Deandre Jourdain hit Michael Hall for an alley oop to pull within 38-33. But Gogebic didn't let it become a run as Hagood answered with an inside bucket for the 40-33 advantage.
"We answered. Not with the same flair, but at the same time, that's a big play," Mackey said.
The Thunder started the second half strong, tying the game at 48-48 before the 10-minute mark. They never took the lead or ever let Gogebic get comfortable.
"Early on, they had got some second opportunities and were banging us on the boards. Even early in the second half and in that run, they were dominating on our defensive end and their offensive end on the glass," Mackey said.
Gogebic turned that around late, though.
With Gogebic ahead 65-60 late in the game, Kohegyi got to the free throw line, made the first and missed the second. He got his own rebound, the first of three by the Samsons on the possession (Hagood got the other two.) As the teams battled for the next rebound, Kohegyi was fouled again. He made both free throws for a 68-60 GCC advantage with 3:21 to go.
"At 6-1, (Hagood's) not very big, but he's got good timing and he works extremely hard. He's relentless going after the glass," Mackey said. "That was huge."
The Thunder pulled within 68-64. The teams traded missed 3s. LaPlant got called for a quick offensive foul on a drive to the basket, but Fond du Lac didn't take advantage as Gutter's 3 missed badly. Gogebic rushed it again and Fond du Lac lost it on a tieup.
GCC moved ahead 70-64 on separate trips to the foul line. Fond du Lac made a basket with 21.5 seconds left, 70-66. But GCC made three more free throws to seal it.
Hickman led GCC with 18 points. Jordan LaPlant and Gordy Kohegyi both had 10 points. Hagood had nine rebounds.
"Those two made some big plays, I thought, on the defensive end," Mackey said of Kohegyi and Hagood.
Wynton Ola'Dehinbo led Fond du Lac with 17 points.
Gogebic was 10 of 31 from behind the arc, but only 3 of 12 in the second half.
"We were just a little off, for whatever reason. We were out of sync with a couple guys. Maybe it was the first game at home, trying too hard," Mackey said. "But at the same time, maybe it was because of the opponent. Give Fond du Lac credit."
The rematch is next week already, on Tuesday, at Fond du Lac.
Gogebic - LaDell Hickman 18, Alex Dietrich 9, Jordan LaPlant 10, Bryce Bilski 3, Michael Cretens 6, Tarius Hagood 8, Gordy Kohegyi 10, Patrick Rafter 9. FTs: 21-32. Fouls: 15. Fouled out: None. 3-pointers: Hickman 3, Rafter 2, Cretens 2, LaPlant 2, Dietrich 1.
Fond du Lac - Deandre Jourdain 2, Nicholas Brown 9, Eric Adams 11, Michael Hall 10, Michael Hudson 7, Wynton Ola'Dehinbo 17, Curtis Rogers 10. FTs: 11-17. Fouls: 23. Fouled out: Kevin Gutter, Ola'Dehinbo.
Half: GCC 40-33.