February 6, 2004 at 12:02 p.m.
Last Tuesday, the North Branch boys basketball team had a golden opportunity. With Foley on the radar screen, a win would push the Vikings in front by two games with nine games left to go. Considering the way they’ve played this season, two games would most likely be enough to capture the Rum River title.
In other words, the Vikings had something to play for, however, early in the first half, it looked like Foley was the team trying to secure a championship. The Falcons traded the Vikings basket for basket, scoring the last four points of the first quarter to trim the Viking lead to two, 12-10.
In the second, Foley grew even stronger, outscoring North Branch 13-8, giving them a three point lead heading into the locker room. The Falcons managed six field goals in the second to the Vikings three. North Branch finished the first half shooting 35 percent from the floor while Foley hit 46 percent of their shots.
“We came out and played almost too relaxed and let Foley take control of the game in the first half,” said Bill Baumann, North Branch boys head basketball coach. “We were getting good looks at the basket but things just weren’t falling. We made a few adjustments at halftime and decided we needed to get back to the basics and execute. We came out in the second with a little more intensity and the shots began to fall.”
Indeed they did, at a furious rate. Matt Fletcher opened up the second half with a three-pointer, tying the game 23-23. After Foley jumped back in front by four, the Vikings answered with an 18-5 run, taking control of the court and the game. During that stretch, Fletcher added eight more points, including two three-pointers, giving him 11 points in the third alone. Senior Britt Baumann also got into the act adding seven while Jake Anderson scored three.
“Again we took care of the basketball and found our open teammates,” remarked Baumann. “The kids are really taking pride in getting a good shot every time down the court. I can’t say enough about the gutty performances by our team. We have two players playing through pretty serious injuries and the rest of the team is really picking up the slack.”
Foley fired back one more time, hoping to make it stick. Early in the fourth, the Falcons rattled off the first five points of the quarter, trimming the North Branch advantage to four, 41-37. However, less than a minute later, the Vikings lead was back to 10 after back-to-back threes by Anderson. North Branch outscored the Falcons 9-7 after that, completing a 56-44 win.
Despite going scoreless in the fourth quarter, Fletcher again led the Vikings with 19 points while Anderson struck for 15 and Baumann hit for 11. North Branch hit 10 threes in the game, all coming from Fletcher, Anderson, and Baumann.
1 2 3 4 F
North Branch 12 8 21 15 56
Foley 10 13 9 12 44
Fletcher 19, Anderson 15, Baumann 11, Nelson 5, Beaver 4, McClaskie 2.
North Branch 57
For three quarters last Friday, the Vikings were in a fight for their lives against Princeton. Still, even with all of the fumbles, stumbles, and tumbles, when it was all said and done, North Branch had themselves a 19 point win.
Early on, the Vikings defense reigned supreme, holding Princeton scoreless for the first two minutes of the game. During that time, North Branch built a 7-0 lead, a lead that quickly disappeared after three Tiger shot. Princeton charged back with three straight three-pointers, putting them in front 9-7. However, the Vikings got going from beyond the arc as well, finishing the first quarter on a 10-2 run, building a six point lead heading into the second, 17-11. That wasn’t the only bright spot for the Vikings in the first. At the 4:07 mark, Matt Fletcher’s free throw made him the all-time leading scorer at North Branch with 1,263 points.
This slowed down considerably in the second quarter, especially for the Tigers who only managed six points. Meanwhile, even though the shots were becoming hard to come by, North Branch hit enough to increase their lead to 12, 29-17. Accounting for 10 of the Vikings 12 second quarter points was Britt Baumann who single-handedly outscored the Tigers in the quarter. Despite the extra breathing room, things were far from comfortable in the North Branch locker room.
“We haven’t been able to get any continuity in our game recently,” stated Baumann. “Even though we jumped out to an early lead, we have been starting slowly on offense the last couple of games. But, fortunately our defense has been up to the challenge. We’ve gone through dry spells but our defense has been a constant.”
So has their ability to hit three-pointers. After seeing Princeton trim the lead to eight three minutes into the third, Fletcher brought it back to 10 with a lay-up. That basket sparked a 10-3 Viking run to close out the third. Six of those points came from beyond the arc on two three-pointers by Fletcher. Britt Baumann picked up the assists on both.
“If you want to be a good team, you must find a way to win games when you’re not on top of your game, and that was one of those games,” said Bill Baumann. “Princeton played a pretty deliberate game and we were trying to force things offensively. We became more patient in the third quarter and took what they gave us and took the game back over.”
Leading 41-24 after three, the lead grew from there. Matt Nelson pushed the North Branch advantage to 19 just seconds into the final quarter before Jake Anderson used his three-point touch to blow the doors off. Anderson, who was scoreless in the game up to that point, nailed three three-pointers in the last six minutes of the game, pushing the Viking lead to 23 at one point. North Branch hit a total of four threes in the fourth en route to a 57-38 win.
On his award winning night, Fletcher paced the Vikings with 19 points and Britt Baumann added 13. In addition, Anderson finished with nine while Nelson chipped in with six points.
The victory moved the Vikings to 10-0 in conference play and 14-3 overall.
1 2 3 4 F
Princeton 11 6 7 14 38
North Branch 17 12 12 16 57
Fletcher 19, Baumann 13, Anderson 9, Nelson 6, McClaskie 4, Beaver 4, Moore 2.