February 13, 2004 at 10:48 a.m.
Chisago Lakes 45
Basketball is a game of runs, and nobody does it better than North Branch.
To go a step further, it’s one thing to start a run, which the Vikings are deadly at, but it’s another thing to answer one, to prevent your opponent from mounting a run of their own. That just might be the Vikings greatest strength.
For example, last Friday versus Chisago, after opening up a double figure lead in the second quarter, the Wildcats never got closer than seven points. That’s not to say they didn’t try, the Vikings just wouldn’t let them. Every time Chisago made a move, North Branch answered. It’s just one reason why the Vikings remain undefeated in conference at 12-0.
The Vikings started the game on a run, scoring 11 of the games first 13 points. Before anyone knew it, North Branch was in front 11-2 helped by two three-pointers, one by Matt Fletcher and the other by Britt Baumann. From that point on however, Chisago finished the quarter on a run of their own, outscoring the Vikings 11-6 the rest of the way, trimming the deficit to six after one, 19-13.
Twenty seconds into the second quarter, Chisago continued to charge back, pulling within four after an early bucket. Paving the way offensively for Chisago early on was junior David Olson who struck for 10 points in the first half including five of the teams nine points in the second quarter.
“When these two teams meet, it’s like Duke and North Carolina, you can throw out the records and just get it on,” said Bill Baumann, North Branch head boys basketball coach. “One of these two teams has won the conference over the past eight years. The kids know each other well and the coaches know each other well, so there are no surprises. We figured they had improved since our first meeting and they had tremendously. There were times in the game we could have probably put them away in the first meeting, but this time, they played with much more confidence and refused to go away.”
“We talked to the kids before the game and told them that if they can withstand some of their runs, we told them that North Branch would let them back into it,” remembered Herb Jangor, Chisago Lakes boys head basketball coach. “Our kids responded when they had to, but they (North Branch) were too tough.”
Four would be as close as it would get. As quickly as the North Branch lead vanished, it grew to double figures, thanks to back-to-back three-pointers by Fletcher and Baumann. After the Wildcats got within eight, the Vikings answered again, striking for five more points. The North Branch lead grew to as much as 13 twice in the quarter before Chisago Lakes trimmed it to 11 at the half, 33-22.
Storming out of the locker room to begin the third quarter, Chisago scored the first four points of the quarter, pulling within seven before a Fletcher three jumped the Vikings lead back to 10. From there, both teams tightened the screws on defense to close out the quarter, leading to a 42-30 North Branch lead through three. It was as even as you could get.
“We played great defense in the second half but so did they,” said Jangor. “We held them to 21 points in the second half but they never let us make a run, that was the key.”
Again, not to say Chisago didn’t try. For the second time in as many quarters, the ‘Cats closed the gap within 10, only to have North Branch sink a three-pointer, once again from Fletcher, his fourth of the game. The Vikings wouldn’t budge.
“Every time we made a run, every time we pulled within 10 or seven, they would hit a three. It was usually from Fletcher. He’s one of the best players I’ve seen come through the Rum River in my nine years here. He never let us close enough to put on the pressure, he always answered, they always answered. We honestly felt that this time around we would be able to pull off the upset and they never let that happen.”
“Overall, we didn’t shoot the ball extremely well but every time they made a run at us, we came up with a big shot. Matt Fletcher has come up with big shots all year while Britt Baumann and Jake Anderson have been proving why they were all-conference last year. Tony Beaver, Bowie McClaskie, and Greg Moriarty are doing so many of the little things, most people don’t notice except for the coaches.”
Chisago Lakes never got closer than seven in the fourth. Despite three late three-pointers by Olson, North Branch was flawless from the line down the stretch, allowing them to wrap up a 54-45 win.
It was a game where even though there was a winner and loser, both teams walked away satisfied.
“Everyone notices our offense and how well we usually shoot the ball, but the staple of our game is our defense,” commented Baumann, whose Vikings forced 18 Wildcat turnovers. “We have been concentrating on our defense lately and it has paid off.”
Behind Fletcher’s 21 points and 11 by Britt Baumann, North Branch moved their overall record to 16-3 overall. The victory was also their 10th straight, all but one coming against Rum River opponents.
Meanwhile, for Chisago, despite the loss, things are positive in the Wildcat camp as well.
“Our guys played an excellent game and we got beat by nine. We didn’t step up and meet the challenge the first time we played them, I thought this time the kids did,” commented Jangor. “You just have to give North Branch credit. Bill does a great job and he has a heck of a ball club. They are going to be tough to beat come tourney time.”
As for Chisago come tourney time?
“When we were 2-6, I said that we would have to wait until late January-early February to see what type of team we are,” concluded Jangor. “Well, here we are and I like what I see.”
North Branch 54
Chisago Lakes 45
1 2 3 4 F
North Branch 19 14 9 12 54
Chisago Lakes 13 9 8 15 45
Olson 23, Secord 6, Johnson 6, Corradi 4, Froberg 2, Golv 2, Swanberg 2.
Fletcher 21, Baumann 11, McClaskie 8, Anderson 8, Beaver 4, Nelson 2.
The Chisago Lakes-Foley
boys basketball game originally
scheduled for Jan 30 has been rescheduled for February 17