1/17/2013 9:44:00 AM Vikings lose third straight after starting 9-0
By JEFF NORTON
There are peaks and valleys to every season, but for the North Branch girls basketball team, the valley seems at its deepest right now. After opening the year with nine straight wins, the Vikings have now lost three straight North Suburban Conference games to drop to 9-3 overall and 3-3 in the conference. Although it was expected to be a tough stretch, as their three games were against the top three teams in the North Suburban Conference last year, it was supposed to be a measuring stick for how high the Vikings could go. Instead, they are left to regroup after the trio of losses that began with Chisago Lakes last week. Robbinsdale Cooper 66, North Branch 31 The Cooper Hawks hosted North Branch and didn’t dilly dally around. They just came out and scored buckets in a hurry, leaving North Branch shell shocked and behind. “Cooper took it to us right away and we were never really in the game,” Head Coach Dan Schindler said after the contest. “They are the quickest team in the conference and they can really score fast.” Schindler pointed to bad shots and turnovers as the catalyst to the Hawks blistering pace. After trailing 33-15 at halftime, nothing much changed in the second half and Cooper cruised to the 66-31 victory with a barrage of late substitutes. “I think Cooper is the best team in the conference and tonight they played that way,” Coach Schindler noted.
“We just need to learn to be more patient on offense and take better shots against the very good teams. When you don’t have good possessions, they turn their defense into instant offense. We just have to learn from this one and continue to work on the things we need to do to compete at their level.” Nobody scored in double digits for North Branch. Courtney Selbitschka and Haley Huset led the team with seven points each. Benilde-St. Margaret’s 44, North Branch 31 The Vikings had a quick turnaround and played the Benilde-St. Margaret’s Red Knights just two nights after playing the Hawks. Although Benilde is ranked number nine in Class AAA and the Vikes had just come off of a shellacking, it didn’t look that way in the first half. “I was pleased with how we bounced back from the Cooper game,” Schindler opined. “I thought we had a lot of energy and really tightened up our defense.” The Vikings opened the road contest with seven straight points and ended up leading the whole first half. At halftime, North Branch enjoyed a 15-14 lead over the 10-3 Red Knights. North Branch started the second half much like the first: efficient and controlled. They went on a 13-6 run to open up a 28-20 lead at one point. “But Benilde is undefeated in the conference for a reason,” Schindler said.
“They really turned up their defensive effort after that.” For the rest of the game, Benilde went on a 24-3 run that saw an eight-point North Branch lead turn into a 13 point deficit for them. “We had trouble getting off good shots, but our defense kept us right in the game. There were a couple of key plays in the second half where we should have scored, only to see Benilde transition to the other end and score,” Schindler explained. “Those four point swings were just too much to for us to overcome.” Although it signaled a three game losing streak, the loss to Benilde was one Schindler could work with. “I really liked our effort and we played much better,” he said.
“We knew before the year started that we had a really tough stretch of games. We will be OK and bounce back. Our goal is still to keep improving and get to the tournament in March playing our best basketball.” Sarah Lekson had a double-double in the game, scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 boards. Selbitschka netted nine points in the losing effort. Not only is North Branch coming home after spending the last month on the road -- their last home game was Dec. 14 -- the next few games get considerably easier. After facing three teams with a combined record of 28-14 in their three losses, their next three opponents, Irondale, FAIR School and Columbia Heights, are a combined 11-26 on the year. They took on Irondale earlier this week, and they host Columbia Heights Thursday, Jan. 17 at 7:15 and FAIR at 7:15 on Saturday, Jan. 19.