Bismarck, ND - On an afternoon in which military personnel and their families were honored, it was Romel Beck who answered the call for the Dakota Wizards. Beck scored 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting to lead the Wizards to a 104-102 win over the Los Angeles D-Fenders in front of 4,586 red, white and blue-clad fans at the Bismarck Civic Center on Sunday afternoon.
After having a horrific shooting night on Friday in Tulsa, Dakota came out of the gate on fire, hitting 61.9% of their field goal attempts in the opening frame. Beck led the way with 17 points in the quarter, connecting on seven of his eight field goal attempts in the first, including 3-of-4 from beyond the 3-point arc. Despite the lights-out shooting effort by the Wizards, Los Angeles trailed only 31-26 after the period, thanks in part to eight points from Ryan Forehan-Kelly and six from Michael Fey.
As per the old basketball cliché, the second period was definitely a game of runs. Horace Wormley's jumper 1:11 into the second period capped a 5-0 D-Fenders run that saw the game knotted at 32. After exchanging buckets, Dakota then reeled off ten straight points, the final two coming on a monster dunk by Memphis Grizzlies assignee Hasheem Thabeet after a beautiful pass from Renaldo Major. Los Angles answered, outscoring the Wizards 11-2 during a four and a half minute stretch to cut the lead to one at 49-48. The D-Fenders' Michael Fey and Dakota's Thabeet battled back-and-forth in the second, with each scoring eight points and grabbing four rebounds. Thabeet scored on a layup and hit three consecutive free throws to close out the half, giving the Wizards a 56-50 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.
It was Los Angeles' turn to heat it up in the third quarter. Forehan-Kelly continued his spectacular play, going 3-of-4 from the field en route to eight points in the period. With the Wizards' Thabeet only playing five minutes in the third, Los Angeles hit the glass hard, out-rebounding their opponents 12-5 in the frame. The D-Fenders shot 56.9% in the quarter, cutting Dakota's lead to 80-76 entering the final period.
Dakota extended its lead to 100-90 with 3:53 to play, keyed by veteran Maurice Baker's eight points and four rebounds down the stretch. After the D-Fenders' James Wright hit a 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds remaining to cut the lead to 104-102, Dakota's Curtis Withers threw the ensuing inbounds pass out of bounds, leaving Los Angeles 4.2 seconds to attempt to tie the game. D-Fenders Head coach Chucky Brown called Joe Crawford's number, and it appeared he had a clear path to the basket and an opportunity to send the game into overtime. Dakota's Major switched over from his man and came out of nowhere, making an emphatic block to preserve the nail-biter.
Along with Beck's game-high 23, Thabeet recorded 14 points and eight rebounds. Major had 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. Forehan-Kelly led Los Angeles with 21 points. Fey chipped in 20 points and 13 rebounds for the D-Fenders