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home : sports : sports
July 3, 2022

3/25/2022 11:54:00 AM
Vikings' dream season ends with loss to Hermantown

The North Branch boys basketball team fell short in its state tournament bid, losing to Hermantown in the section semifinals Tuesday, March 15, but that doesn’t diminish what the squad did this season.

North Branch had beaten the Hawks earlier in the year, but like many of their games in the second half of the season, NB struggled to recapture that glory.

The Vikings were able to build a little bit of an early lead using a stout team defense and balanced scoring, but Hermantown, who averaged over 80 points per game this season, stormed back to retake the lead and hold on for the win.

“I’m always proud of our team.  The guys battled hard, but we had too many turnovers,” Head Coach Todd Dufault said. “Credit Hermantown.  We were not at our best. But to hold a high scoring team like Hermantown to 59 points really defines our team this season.  Even though things did not go our way offensively, defense kept us in the game until the very end.  The guys still put us in a position to win the game.  Effort is never a problem.  My guys left it all out there and I’ve always loved them for that.  

“But Hermantown hit free throws and made the plays to secure the win.  We got beat by a really good team.  Nice job, Hermantown,” he concluded.

North Branch was led by Trevor Johnson, who scored 12 points. He was the only Viking in double figures, but Carson Klein scored nine, Adam Rehm had eight, Travis Schoeberl and Andrew Thauwald each had seven and Logan Murphy chipped in six.

It just wasn’t enough to combat the high-scoring trio of Blake Schmitz, Michael Lau and Keaton Christianson of Hermantown. Those three combined for 47 points, with Schmitz leading the way with 20.

Hermantown did go on to beat Hibbing by one point in the section championship game to earn Section 7AAA’s bid to the state tournament.
“What a journey our team took us on.  It was such an enjoyable team to coach.   To earn the number two seed, lead the conference in defense and win 16 games, it’s absolutely amazing what this team accomplished to help put North Branch basketball back on the map,” Dufault said after the game. “I will miss the seniors.  They have left their mark on the program  and established new expectations for the future.  They were unbelievable role models for our younger players.  They were coachable, respectful and just flat out fun to be around.
“Thank for everything seniors.  You set a great foundation for the years to come. We have a lot of work ahead of us but we will be back for more next year.”

The team was also named the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association Section 7AAA Academic champions off the court.

But their success on the court can’t be overstated. The team went 16-10 on the year, and this is a team that has won a combined 55 games over the last 11 years for an average of exactly five wins a year. They haven’t had double digit win totals in over a decade, and at one point were ranked in the top 10 in Class AAA this year.

Dufault hopes the success of this team can propel the program to even greater heights in the years to come.

“I’m blessed to have great people around me.  My coaching staff is awesome.  The parents and administration has been so supportive.  North Branch has been so good to me in year number one,” he said. “One journey just ended.  The next journey is about to begin.”

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