1/24/2019 4:17:00 PM Chisago Lakes holds off late North Branch charge for a rivalry victory
County rivals Chisago Lakes and North Branch have had a fairly one-sided history recently, with Chisago Lakes typically coming out on top.
But, both teams have struggled this season so far, and it seemed to be a game that was up for grabs heading into the showdown on Tuesday, January 15.
Early in the game, it seemed to be the same old, same old for the two teams. North Branch’s young star, Paige Peaslee got in early foul trouble and had to take a seat for a bulk of the first half and Chisago Lakes sophomore post player Sophie Wood took advantage, absolutely cleaning up on the glass and scoring easy putbacks at will.
North Branch battled on defense, but Wood, along with some hot shooting from Lizzy Godden, just seemed to be too much for the Vikings. Hannah Gillach, who runs the point for CL, even got in on the rebounding action, as North Branch was constantly double and triple teaming Wood to limit her effectiveness.
Nothing was really working for NB, however, as they went into the halftime break down 32-16. They haven’t had much of an offensive spark this season either, so that lead seemed near insurmountable at that moment.
“With senior Gail Nelson still out with an injury, we were hurting depth-wise and when we got into foul trouble early, it led to the big deficit,” North Branch Head Coach Alison Trampe said. “After our one point loss to Big Lake last week, we spoke with the girls about our development and the improvement that we've seen throughout the first half of the season to this point,” Head Coach Craig Walker explained. “We challenged them to come out of next week with three wins in the three games we play, and it started well against North Branch.” Early in the second half, North Branch chipped away a bit at the CL lead, but whenever they had a chance to really make a dent, they would go on a scoreless streak and CL would stretch the lead back to mid-double digits.
With just eight minutes left in the game, North Branch finally made their move. Peaslee and Kate Carlson did some fine work making shots on the offensive end while shutting down Wood and Godden on the defensive end. Megan Bunes, who had been cold all game from three point land, hit a couple of big shots, and the deficit was quickly into the single digits. NB kept chipping away, forcing bad shots and quick decisions from Chisago Lakes, and they chiseled the lead all the way down to three points with just a few minutes remaining.
North Branch kept it to within one or two possessions for the ensuing scrambles, but eventually, they had to resort to fouling Chisago Lakes in an attempt to catch up. The ‘Cats have struggled from the free throw line this year, but they were true in closing this game out, with Gillach and Emma Bjelland hitting some key free throws late.
The cushion gave CL a 59-54 win over their rival, with North Branch’s comeback falling just short.
Walker suggested that there was some bulletin board material in build up to this game, and the Wildcats used it to their advantage.
“The Mississippi 8 portion of Chisago County has struggled in the win column this season, but a few social media posts from the northern half stoked the fire of a rivalry last week,” he said. “We were ready to see how our schedule with two wins measures up to their schedule with four wins. We played really well for three quarters of the game and NB came out in the second half with more fire than I'd seen from them this year. But basketball is often a game of runs, but it was a good thing we had built the lead at that point.”
“The girls really responded in the second half and made a valiant comeback to pull within three points late in the game,” Trampe said after the game. “We had some chances at the end and weren't able to get some shots to fall, but credit our girls for never giving up and believing we could come back.”
“Some of our kids were happy with the win, but others who have experienced section championships and other big games realize the expectations we have for our performance and we didn't reach those expectations to close out a team that has struggled this year,” Walker noted. “We took many questionable shots during their run at the end and that was the most frustrating part of the game. Some of our kids know how to operate at the end of games and it was obvious that others do not.”
Wood led the Wildcats with 17 points and 18 rebounds, Gillach had her first career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds and Godden added 12 points and eight rebounds.
For North Branch, Bunes led them in scoring with 20 points, Peaslee had 14 points and 11 rebounds despite picking up two fouls in the first couple minutes of the game, and Kate Carlson had 12 points and eight rebounds. Maddie Helin had six points and 10 rebounds from her guard position.