TOURNEY OPENER: United Tribes Eliminates GCC

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ESCANABA---The NJCAA Region 13 men's basketball tournament began Friday night with United Tribes Tech out of North Dakota topping Gogebic Community College, 86-67.

The Thunderbirds navigated the 12-hour bus ride to Escanaba just fine, and played without seven players, including four of their five starters. They didni't miss a beat against the Samsons, taking an early lead and never lost that advantage.

Tate Bear scored nine early points and led the Thunderbirds with 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the floor. Khalil Grant is a slasher, and found his way to the hole several times, making all four of his shots and finished with 13 points.

Riley Hodgkiss nailed three triples in the first half as UTTC turned a 19-15 lead into a 28-19 advantage ten minutes into the game. He ended up iwth 14 points.

Center Nick Valencia is a big dude who can also move. He made eight of his 11 shot attempts and scored 20 points, including eleven in the first half as UTTC led 53-32 at halftime.

GCC switched to a token press defense that gave UTTC problems in the second half. Sincere Key and Yohance London both had a pair of steals that led to baskets at the other end, and former Bay College Norse player Mason Saubert hit four triples as GCC cut its deficit to seven points at 61-54 with still ten minutes left in the game.

The Samsons, however, could not get over the hump, and had their shortened season end with a 1-8 record. Key ended up scoring a game-high 25 points and Saubert added 12, but Marlen Williams, who scored 63 points in two games against Bay this season, as held to five.

UTTC was just 3-18 in the regular season, but that record came almost entirely against JUCO Division One schools. The Thunderbirds will face Bay College in the regional semifinals Saturday afternoon at 3:00 ET/2:00 CT. The game will be broadcast live on Maverick 106.3 FM and as well as the live stream at

The second game Saturday will pit Rochester Tech (Minn.) against Dakota Bottineau (N.D.)