The moment demanded a celebration, but Davonte Williamson could barely raise his arms at the conclusion of a triple-overtime thriller. He felt too tired to do much of anything after playing the greatest basketball game of his life Friday afternoon.

“I want to lay down,” he admitted.

His coach apologized for stumbling over his words as he tried to explain something that felt indescribable.

“I’ve never had a game like that,” Earl Otis said. “I’m at a loss for words.”

Even longtime observers of Minnesota’s high school basketball scene couldn’t stop gushing after Fond du Lac Ojibwe — a first-time state tournament entrant and a school with only 34 students — outlasted Canby 85-82 in triple overtime in the Class 1A quarterfinals at Williams Arena.

Frank White, a former referee who has attended the high school state tournament for 30-plus years, waited outside the Fond du Lac locker room just to give Williamson a hug.

Williamson was marvelous with 23 points, 20 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks while playing all 48 minutes.

“In the history of this event, that was one of the best performances ever. Ever!” White said.

The 1A quarterfinals provided a historical milestone as two teams from reservations — Fond du Lac and Red Lake — advanced to the state tournament in the same year for the first time. Red Lake lost to Maranatha Christian 95-67 in an evening quarterfinal.

Fans from both reservations packed charter buses by the hundreds and cheered on the other. Members of the Ojibwe band performed a ceremonial drum circle at halftime. Many of the players on Fond du Lac and Red Lake are friends and former teammates in travel basketball. They carried a communal pride in their shared experience.

“[Basketball] really brings our community together,” Fond du Lac superintendent Mike Rabideaux said. “It gives us something to believe in, something to be proud of.”

Fond du Lac ranks among the state’s smallest schools in enrollment, and the team didn’t become an official high school league program until seven years ago. You’d be hard pressed to find a more fun and entertaining team to watch, though.

Fond du Lac averaged 92 points this season, once scoring 132 in a game. The team looks like a noon pickup game at the YMCA. A bunch of 5-11 guys who love to shoot and play loose and carefree.

Their motto?

“If you’re open, [shoot] it; if you got the lane, take it,” senior Trevontae Brown said.

Who wouldn’t want to play in that system? For them, two passes in a possession is a form of stalling. Everyone has a green light to shoot. And then shoot again. They play basketball like NASCAR drivers — foot on the gas at all times.

“We run and gun,” Williamson said. “Every time we go somewhere, people look at us like, ‘That team is tiny.’ Then they’re like, ‘Whoa.’ ”

That happened again Thursday as Fond du Lac played carefree to build a 17-point lead. It made neutral observers inside Williams Arena collectively say, whoa.

But Canby chipped away with the help of a halfcourt trap in the second half, setting up momentum swings that revealed real character in both teams.

Two of Fond du Lac’s best players — Brown and Dexter Delille — fouled out, forcing Williamson to take the lead role while enduring a roller-coaster of emotions.

He missed a runner at the buzzer in regulation. He blocked a shot at the buzzer in the first overtime. He missed a 15-footer in the final seconds of the second overtime. And he grabbed a steal with 5 seconds left in the third overtime to prevent Canby from getting a three-point shot to tie the score.

Williamson added some drama by missing four free throws in the final 31 seconds.

“I’ve never played a game like that in my life,” he said.

He probably never will again, either. That one will be impossible to top.

 

Chip Scoggins

chip.scoggins@startribune.com