February 20, 2004 at 10:27 a.m.
One constant for Dan Schindler’s teams has always been defense. It might be the main reason why this years North Branch girls basketball team has gone from being picked a pretender before the season started to becoming a conference contender. Last Tuesday, the Vikings once again used their defense to keep their title hopes alive.
North Branch began the game with a balanced attack, striking for 13 points on offense while allowing just eight in the first quarter. Despite running into four trouble in the second, the Vikings held onto their five point lead after holding the Wolves to six points in the second, leading 19-14 at the half. While struggling at times on offense, the Vikings defense was solid.
“The one constant we have had is our defense,” said Dan Schindler, North Branch girls basketball head coach. “We have had good and bad quarters on offense but our defense is the key as to why we are winning.”
In this case, the Vikings defense bought just enough time for their offensive weapons to take charge, and in the third, they did. North Branch used their balance to strike for 15 points in the third, outscoring Milaca 15-5. It was more of the same in the fourth as the Vikings continued racking up the points, scoring 14 more points en route to a 48-28 win. Individually, North Branch got seven players in the scorebook led by Megan Stegmeir who had 11. Stegmeir also added five rebounds and four assists.
“She had her best game. Megan has been one big reason why we have been playing so well,” mentioned Schindler. “Another freshman is Tiffany Good. She contributed 10 points and eight rebounds. Tiffany is a very good shooter and she has really stepped her game up the last few weeks. Another reserve, Kara Lundeen, has also been giving us some great minutes. We knew our starters would be okay by mid-February, but those three have given us a very strong bench also. They have really picked us up in some key moments in this run.”
The run Schindler is referring to is seven, as in a seven game winning streak. The win was also the Vikings 10th over their last 11 games, improving their record to 14-7 overall.
“Earlier in the year, Jenny Anderson was doing all our scoring it seemed, but now we have that balance we like,” explained Schindler. “Each night it’s been someone different stepping up for us. That is important because teams just can’t key on one person for us anymore.”
In other words, an already deadly team has just gotten deadlier.
North Branch 48, Milaca 28
1 2 3 4 F
North Branch 13 6 15 14 48
Milaca 8 6 5 9 28
Stegmeir 11, Good 10, Anderson 8, Hasleiet 6, Lundeen 5, Center 4, Olson 4.
North Branch 58
Pine City 48
The Vikings win over Milaca earlier in the week set the stage for one of the most anticipated match-ups of the season last Thursday. On one side, the Vikings were winners of seven in a row, and on the other, Pine City, winners of five straight, including their last win where they scored 78 points. Going in, North Branch set a goal of holding the surging Dragons to under 50 points. They did, allowing 48 en route to a 58-48 win.
Things got off to a fast start, especially for the Dragons in the first as they jumped out to an 11-9 lead after one. However, for the second straight game, the Vikings kicked it up a notch in the second, outscoring Pine City 20-12 in the quarter, jumping in front 29-23 at the half.
“Pine City is very much improved this year,” said Schindler. “The coaching staff at Pine City has done a great job with that team. They came to town playing with great confidence. We got into some foul trouble in the second quarter, we have to learn to quit picking up dumb fouls, but our bench was outstanding again. Megan (Stegmeir), Tiffany (Good), and Kara (Lundeen) all came in and played great.”
With the Vikings lead at six heading into the third, Pine City only got as close as five after the third. The five point cushion was more than enough for North Branch as they sealed the game from the line, outscoring the Dragons 19-14 down the stretch, leading to a 58-48 win. Freshman Gabi Olson went 5-6 from the charity stripe in the fourth to lead the Vikings.
“Again we had very nice balance in the scoring column,” remarked Schindler. “Kara (Lundeen) was just outstanding with eight points and 10 rebounds. It was her best game of the season.”
Along with Lundeen’s eight, Jenny Anderson led North Branch in scoring with 12 points and eight rebounds. The Vikings finished the game with seven players registering points, all with five or more. The win improved the Vikings record to 12-3 in conference and 15-7 overall.
Now winners of eight straight, North Branch will put their streak on the line against conference leader and second-ranked St. Michael-Albertville this week on the road. The Knights are undefeated in conference play and are 20-1 on the season.
North Branch 58, Pine City 48
1 2 3 4 F
Pine City 11 12 11 14 48
North Branch 9 20 10 19 58
Anderson 12, Center 10, Olson 10, Stegmeir 8, Lundeen 8, Good 5, Brown 5.