1/31/2013 11:40:00 AM Lady Vikes go 1-1 without stalwart Sarah Lekson
By JEFF NORTON
North Branch 49, St. Louis Park 45 Injuries are a part of every athletic season. It’s the timing and severity of the injuries that can really derail a season quickly.
North Branch lost scoring, rebounding and emotional leader Sarah Lekson late last week to an ankle injury, and that could sideline the senior for two to four weeks. Although they didn’t have Lekson while playing FAIR Charter School last Saturday, the talent gap was big enough where it wasn’t noticeable.
Back in the North Suburban Conference, Lekson’s play is going to be missed greatly by the Lady Vikings while she’s out and her absence has already been felt by the team. The first real test without Lekson came against St. Louis Park on Tuesday, Jan. 22. In the first half, the game looked like a typically-coached Dan Schindler game and the Lekson injury might not affect that too much.
The girls played tenacious defense and held the Orioles to just 12 first half points while scoring 24 of their own. “Many of our conference games are very physicaly and I was really proud of our intensity,” Schindler said. “Our defensive rotations were very good and we had many deflections with our hands which is a sign we were moving and anticipating passing lanes.”
In the second half, Lekson’s absence began to wear on the Vikings. St. Louis Park started to climb back in the game slowly, and eventually chipped the lead down to two points with just over four minutes remaining in the game. “I think we just got a little tired without Sarah and some people probably playing more minutes than they had been used to,” Schindler explained.
He noted those that Jessica Merchant and Annette Olson really stepped up as the Orioles pressed and then Haley Huset and Courtney Selbitschka hit some big free throws to seal the game for the Vikings 49-45. Huset led the team with 13 points, Olson had 10 and Selbitschka and Merchant each had eight. “We had nice balance scoring and all the girls did a nice job defensively,” Schindler said. “Without Sarah, each player has to do a little bit more and I think that happened at St. Louis Park.”
Spring Lake Park 55, North Branch 52 In their second North Suburban Conference game without Lekson, the Vikings did the exact opposite they had done against St. Louis Park.
They came out sluggish and slow in the first half and then spent the second half playing catch up. In the first half, North Branch tried to play a bit up tempo against the larger Panthers, but a combination of turnovers and missed shots quickly brought the Vikings gameplan to a halt. The Panthers stretched an early lead to as much as 14 at 18-4 before North Branch put together a little run.
After the Vikes settle down, they were able to trim the deficit to 10 by halftime at 31-21. “We gave them too many second shots in the first half and we stressed that at halftime,” Schindler said. “I thought Emily Trunk and Morgen Coleman were very active on the defensive end and got us going.”
North Branch stormed all the way back in the second half, pulling ahead at 46-44 with four minutes left in the game. The rest of the game was back and forth between the two teams. When North Branch made a shot, Spring Lake Park answered, but when one missed, the other couldn’t capitalize on the mistake. Spring Lake Park had the ball at the buzzer, but couldn’t convert their chance and the game went to overtime at 50-50.
Both teams had plenty of chances in overtime, but North Branch just couldn’t convert theirs and they only scored one bucket in the extra frame while Spring Lake Park scored five points and came away with the 55-52 win. “We are never happy with a loss, but I was really pleased with our team effort,” Schindler said after the exhausting game. “The girls left everything on the floor and as a coach, that is all you can really ask.”
Huset led the Vikings with 17 points and six assists. Selbitschka had 11 points, 11 steals and nine rebounds, narrowly missing the triple double. “Annette Olson did her part with nine rebounds and Mikayla Carlson was very active on defense and gave us that energy we are looking for right now off the bench,” Schindler said. “Right now, we are making adjustments not having Sarah and I am proud of the girls’ effort in both games. It certainly won’t get any easier, but I think we’ll be ready for some tough games down the stretch.”
The 1-1 week moved the Vikings to 13-4 on the season and 6-4 in the North Suburban Conference. Earlier this week, the Vikings took on St. Croix Prep in a winnable game and tonight, Jan. 31, they take on St. Francis at St. Francis.