|1/14/2022 1:12:00 PM|
Vikings roll to 10-1 ahead of pivotal week of basketball
Even though this upcoming week may be the most important of the season thus far for the North Branch boys basketball team, it doesn’t mean last week’s 2-0 sweep wasn’t impressive over Big Lake and Grand Rapids.
North Branch 66, Big Lake 55
The Vikings came out of their New Year’s break with a Mississippi 8 match up against Big Lake on Thursday, January 6. The Hornets were riding high, winning three of their last four, but NB cooled them down quickly with their balanced offense and stifling defense.
“I thought Big Lake really applied a ton of pressure on us defensively both in the full and half court setting,” Head Coach Todd Dufault said. “We handled it fairly well and that was a big difference in the game.”
North Branch staked themselves a four point lead at halftime and then used their lockdown defense to limit the Hornets’ production in the second half and stretch out their lead to 11 for a double-digit win.
“They have some really good shooters. I thought we did a nice job of limiting their looks and forcing them to put the ball on the floor,” Dufault said. “We made enough plays down the stretch to beat a good team. We continue to find ways to win and this is a great way to start our conference schedule.”
Adam Rehm led the Vikings with 23 points, Trevor Johnson had 18, Logan Murphy added 11, Carson Klein had eight and Travis Schoeberl netted six. It was another testament to NB’s deep offense and showing that on any night, any one of their starters can go off for a big night,
North Branch 65, Grand Rapids 52
North Branch continued their unbelievable season with another big section win, this time over the Grand Rapids Thunderhawks on Saturday, January 8.
The afternoon trip up north went well for the Vikings as a whole, but it didn’t start out great, with the Thunderhawks controlling action in the first half.
“Grand Rapids played a great first half and are so well coached. They have a great guard in Austin Hanson, but we really responded in the second half both defensively and offensively,” Dufault explained.
Although North Branch hasn’t had to come from behind much this year, they’ve still played in close games, so they didn’t panic when they got down.
The balance on offense continued to be a contributing factor to their success. Four players were in double figures for the Vikings as they came back in the second half, led by Johnson’s 16. Rehm had 12, Schoeberl had 11 and Murphy chipped in 10. North Branch eventually took over the game and won by a comfortable margin of 13 points.
“This is the balance we need and shows how well our guys share the ball. We will continue to work hard and get better as we have two great teams coming to town this week,” Dufault said. “I'm proud of how the guys have embraced the road — we are 9-0 away from North Branch. They continue to stay focused on one day at a time, one game at a time. Our schedule will continue to be difficult so we hope to keep building.”
North Branch has now won eight games in a row and are off to their best start in over a decade.
This week brings some tough challenges, but NB does get to face them at home after being on the road since December 17.
They opened this week’s slate with a match up against the 7-2 Becker Bulldogs on Tuesday, and then in one of the biggest regular season games in recent memory for NB basketball, the Vikings will host the undefeated and seventh-ranked Princeton Tigers on Friday, January 14 at 7 p.m.
NB, Princeton and Becker all have M8C title aspirations, so this will be a big week in separating the trio of teams.