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January 21, 2019

12/27/2018 2:53:00 PM
Vikes nearly upset PC

Pine City 67, North Branch 66
North Branch took a tough loss against the still undefeated Pine City Dragons on Tuesday, December 18.

The Dragons shoot a lot of three pointers and play a pressure style of defense, which is quite a bit different than most varsity teams that North Branch plays.

The entire first half was very close. North Branch held a 35-34 late in the stanza, but Pine City went on a 15-3 run to take a commanding lead, which is apt to happen with their potent three point shooting.

North Branch didn’t fold in the second half, though. They dinked and dunked their way back all the way to within one point as the second half was drawing to a close.

The Vikings got the ball, too, with a chance to win it and give Pine City their first blemish of the year, but they didn’t get a good shot off, and Pine City survived the scare.

“I give our guys a ton of credit,” Head Coach Alex Kuhlman said. “We fought back to have a chance at the end. Our energy was fantastic and I thought it was the hardest that we have played since I have been the coach here.”

Unfortunately for North Branch, their shooting woes continued, as they only made three three pointers all game to Pine City’s 13 made bonus baskets.

Zach Gazda was missing his first game with the injury he sustained in the loss Grand Rapids. Conner Hartmann and Rylen Nelson really stepped up big time to cover this loss. Hartmann had 17 points and 15 rebounds and Nelson had nine points and 10 boards. “Those two were great filling in for Zach,” Kuhlman noted.

Drew VanEerden led the offensive output for North Branch, scoring 21 points, grabbing five boards and swiping three steals. Colby Knutson added eight points and nine rebounds in the losing effort.

Stillwater 72, North Branch 43
The early-season gauntlet continued for the Vikings against the 5-1 Stillwater Ponies on Thursday, December 20 at home.

North Branch was still missing their top player in Zach Gazda, and that really affected them against Stillwater, who can throw some big lineups in to punish undersized teams.

That strategy paid off for the Ponies as they raced out to a big lead early in the game. Drew VanEerden, Colby Knutson and Conner Hartmann did the best they could to fight Stillwater, but it just wasn’t enough as there wasn’t help from any others on the offensive end. That trio combined for 38 of North Branch’s 43 points.

And with Gazda out, the defense was vulnerable on the inside, keeping Stillwater ahead comfortably for the game.

VanEerden had 16 points, Knutson 13 and Hartmann nine. Rylen Nelson scored four for the Vikings.

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