|3/17/2023 11:15:00 AM|
Vikes upset by Denfeld in section semifinals
After really turning around their trajectory in Head Coach Todd Dufault’s first season last year, the North Branch boys basketball team looked to take the next step this year after drawing the second seed in Section 7AAA.
But, a first round bye and home court advantage didn’t give the Vikings the boost they needed as Duluth Denfeld came down from up north and beat North Branch 63-59 Friday, March 10 to end the season.
Denfeld, the third seed, had crushed sixth seeded Hibbing by 42 points on Wednesday. Duluth showed their fatigue as North Branch got out to an early lead. NB’s leading scorers Brody Beaver and Tyler Minke did most of the early damage and the Vikings led 30-26 at halftime and were in a good spot.
But, the Hunters surged in the second half, with junior Aidan Newton and sophomore Marnaries Ferguson taking over the contest. The pair combined for 37 points and six three pointers, with Ferguson hitting all four of his shots from long distance.
Kareem Pulliam, DaShawn Moore and Cole Abernathy all hit some big shots for Denfeld down the stretch too, as they took the lead and wouldn’t relinquish it to the Vikings as the clock ticked. The Hunters ended up finishing the comeback and winning 63-59.
Seniors Carson Klein and Mason Young both chipped in six points in trying to keep North Branch afloat late, but it wasn’t quite enough.
Juniors Owen Link and Noah Thoreson combined for 12 points in the losing effort.
“Another great season came to an end. Despite the injuries and adversity we faced, we definitely took another positive step in the right direction,” coach Dufault said. “It's always hard to say goodbye to the seniors. They are a huge part of the building process. Nice work, fellas!”
The loss left the Vikings’ record at 14-13 after last year’s 16-11 mark.
Dufault’s 30 wins over the last two years nearly matches NB’s win totals for the previous seven years combined, so they certainly seem to be on the right track.
The top two scorers for NB will be back next year, as well, with Beaver, a junior leading the squad at 16.3 points per game, and Minke, a sophomore, right behind at 16.2 points per game. They both averaged over five rebounds per game for the Vikes.