February 13, 2004 at 10:43 a.m.
Chisago Lakes 39
Defense can be a dangerous weapon.
Over the past several seasons, the North Branch girls basketball team has used that weapon better than anyone around. Just ask Chisago Lakes, the Vikings latest target.
Case in point- Kari Schmidt. This season alone, after holding the Wildcats all-time leading scorer to a ho-hum 18 points the first time the two teams met, the Vikings continued to fluster the senior, this time holding her to seven points. As in the first meeting, the Vikings won this time around as well, completing the regular season sweep, keeping their dominance over rival Chisago Lakes in tact, and moving into second place in the conference standings all at once.
Defense is a dangerous thing.
“We can’t just rely on one player to score for us,” said Ed Wachutka, Chisago Lakes head girls basketball coach. “When everyone is on, we’re fine, but we really struggled shooting the ball against them and that makes it tough.”
“Struggled” as in 20 percent from the field. That’s what the ‘Cats shot for the game. Meanwhile, North Branch had no such problem.
Thanks to Katie Hasleiet and Tiffany Good, the Vikings built a 9-6 lead after one. All nine North Branch points in the first quarter came from Hasleiet and Good. Both finished the game in double figures in points.
“We got some big baskets from Katie and Tiffany,” said Dan Schindler, North Branch girls basketball head coach. “Tiffany got us going with six first quarter points. She is really stepping up and helping this team the second half of the season. Katie was also on fire from the outside. She seems to save her best games for Chisago.”
That appears to be the case. Hasleiet struck for 18 points the last time the Wildcats and Vikings met, including four three-pointers. In the second quarter, Hasleiet began to find her stroke again, sinking two threes, accounting for six of her 10 points in the second quarter alone. In addition, Jenny Anderson, Megan Stegmeir, and Good added some instant offense as the Vikings exploded for 21 points in the quarter to the Wildcats 10. Of those 10 points, zero came from Schmidt. The North Branch defensive game plan was working again.
“I thought our defense was outstanding all night,” mentioned Schindler. “We held Kari to seven and that doesn’t happen without a great defensive effort. I thought Rachel (Brown), Kara (Lundeen), and Jennah (Engen) all did a great job of trying to slow her down.”
That defense helped North Branch to a 30-16 lead at the half.
Leading by 14 with 16 minutes left to play, the Vikings just needed to hold on. Schmidt did most of her damage in the third quarter as Chisago tried to mount a comeback. Still, the Vikings matched the Wildcats basket for basket, enabling them to maintain their 14 point lead heading into the fourth, 39-25. It was becoming increasingly clear to Wachutka, in order to close the gap, the shots had to start falling.
“We shot in the low 20’s for the game in terms of percentage,” commented Wachutka. “Some of the credit has to go to their defense but we also didn’t shoot the ball well. Again, we need someone else to step up when Kari is being double and triple-teamed. Vanessa (Sprecher) did that for us in the fourth but it wasn’t enough.”
With five points under her belt, Sprecher added eight more in the fourth, including a three-pointer. In addition, freshman Jess Peterson and junior Katie Reed added to the charge, but the Vikings fought off the comeback with free throws, hitting eight of 12 from the line in the fourth, completing a 49-39 win.
“It was a very physical game and I’m proud of our players and how they battled the whole night,” replied Schindler. “Megan (Stegmeir) continues to play well. She did a nice job of handling the basketball with Gab (Gabi Olson) when Chisago picked up their defensive effort. Jenny Anderson had another great game as well. Many times Chisago drove to the hoop and Jenny did a great job making shots difficult for them.”
For the game, Anderson finished with a triple-double, scoring 10 points, grabbing 14 rebounds, and blocking 10 shots. The Vikings were led offensively by Hasleiet who finished the game with 15 points, 13 came in the first half.
The win was the Vikings ninth over their last 10 games, putting them in second place in the Rum River, one game ahead of Chisago Lakes. As for the Wildcats, the loss snapped a four game winning streak.
“We just needed to battle through some stuff, I though Vanessa was a poster child for that,” remarked Wachutka. “We battled them in the second half but we spotted them too much of a lead in the first. I felt momentum was going our way, it was just too much to overcome. It was a very frustrating game. Hopefully we can learn from it and give them a better game next time.”
Next time? It could be coming sooner than you might think. Some coaches feel that the Vikings and Wildcats are on line to meet in the first round of the section tournament in early March. Stay tuned.....
North Branch 49
Chisago Lakes 39
1 2 3 4 F
Chisago Lakes 6 10 9 14 39
North Branch 9 21 9 9 49
Sprecher 13, Reed 11, Schmidt 7, Peterson 7, Ploog 1.
Hasleiet 15, Good 10, Anderson 10, Stegmeir 7, Brown 3, Center 2, Olson 2.