January 8, 2004 at 12:46 p.m.
Red Wing 63
North Branch 54
Even before the season started, the North Branch Vikings knew their stiffest test to date would come December 29 at the Lakeville Holiday Tournament against Red Wing. Unfortunately, the Vikings were right on.
The Wingers entered the game with one of the most impressive resumes in the state, 5-0, all against quality 4A opponents. After 32 minutes of basketball, their record moved to 6-0.
The Wingers used several runs to gain the upper hand.
In the first quarter, leading 8-7, the Vikings saw their lead disappear after the Wingers answered with back-to-back baskets late in the first to gain control, control they would not relinquish.
Midway through the second, after a Matt Fletcher three-pointer tied the game, the Wingers pressed on the accelerator, rattling off the next seven points. Once North Branch pulled back within three, Red Wing went on another run, outscoring the Vikings 10-3 down the stretch, pushing their halftime lead to 10, 34-24.
“We played like we were intimidated by them in the first half and basically let them control the game,” said Bill Baumann, North Branch boys basketball head coach.
North Branch charged out of the locker room with more fire in the third quarter, opening up play with the first seven points of the quarter thanks to a Tony Beaver free throw followed by back-to-back threes by Fletcher and Jake Anderson. However, the run was short lived as the Wingers responded, finishing the third with a flurry, outscoring the Vikings 11-2. The only other North Branch basket came from Britt Baumann at the 3:29 mark.
Leading 45-33 after three, Red Wing pushed their lead to 17 by scoring the first five points of the quarter. The Winger lead got as high as 19 before North Branch was able to chip away, trimming the deficit to nine at the final buzzer, 63-54.
“I was proud that our kids didn’t give up and we battled right to the end,” remarked Baumann. “The compliment we received from the Red Wing staff was that we gave them the most problems of any team they have faced this year.”
It was a small consolation for a team that expects to win every time they take the court.
“It was a great learning experience,” continued Baumann. “Against great teams, you can’t make even little mistakes. You have to play better defense and always stay alert because they will take advantage of any opening. On offense, you have to screen just a little better and come off those screen’s a little tighter. We needed to execute a little better and be a little more focused.”
The loss was the Vikings first since their season opening setback to Cambridge. It dropped their mark to 5-2 on the year.
Red Wing 63
North Branch 54
1 2 3 4 F
Red Wing 11 23 11 18 63
North Branch 10 14 9 21 54
Fletcher 26, Baumann 13, McClaskie 5, Beaver 5, Anderson 3, Nelson 2.
Lakeville Holiday Tournament
North Branch 59
From one good team to the next. Twenty four hours after battling Red Wing, the Vikings faced off with Zumbrota-Mazeppa, a team that finished third in state Class 2A last season.
The Vikings, fighting fatigue early on, jumped started their game with a barrage of threes in the first quarter. Matt Nelson’s three-pointer opened the scoring followed by Nelson’s second of the quarter late. Matt Fletcher also struck twice from beyond the arc and Jake Anderson hit once, helping North Branch to a 22-13 lead after one. Of their 22 points, 15 came from beyond the arc.
The Vikings cooled down in the second, however, the Cougars were just as ineffective on offense, allowing North Branch to stay in front. The Vikings finished the second shooting 30 percent from the field while Zumbrota hit for 40 percent. The shots that did fall were huge, including three North Branch three-pointers, two by Britt Baumann, putting the Vikings in front 34-22 at the half.
While threes were raining from the sky, the Vikings defense stole the show, forcing 14 first half turnovers, styffling the Cougars every chance they got. In the third, things opened up a little bit more and so did the game.
The Cougars fought back, finding their touch from the field with 17 third quarter points. After shooting 45 percent in the first half, Zumbrota shot 70 percent from the field in the third quarter, trimming the North Branch lead to eight, 47-39.
“Zumbrota has a proud team and a good coach, so they wanted to prove they belonged in this tournament with bigger schools,” remarked Baumann. “Every time we extended our lead, they came right back to cut it down.”
The Cougars continued their climb in the fourth, trimming the Viking lead to five with a three-pointer less than a minute into the quarter, but North Branch used four shots, all three-pointers, to weather the storm, keeping their heads above water. Baumann and Fletcher each struck twice, completing a 15-three-pointer performance and a 59-53 win.
While their touch from the outside was one story, the Vikings balance was another. Fletcher led North Branch with 20 points in the game while Baumann hit for 19 and Nelson added 15. But their balance goes well beyond the scoresheet.
“We have some of our role players starting to find themselves,” said Baumann. “To be a successful team, there is more to the game then just scoring points. Tony Beaver is a starter that has great anticipation both offensively and defensively. Ben Stenberg is starting to get a feel for his role. He is playing good defense and giving us a physical presence. Greg Moriarty is giving us a spark off the bench and is a defensive nuisance as well. Bowie McClaskie is the slasher we have always had. He also has long arms and really gets in the passing lanes. If they can continue to improve and expand their game a little more, we could become a pretty good team by the end of the year.”
North Branch 59
1 2 3 4 F
Zumbrota 13 9 17 14 53
North Branch 22 12 13 12 59
Fletcher 20, Baumann 19, Nelson 13, Anderson 6, McClaskie 1.
North Branch 41
After taking third at the Lakeville Tournament, the Vikings took a step backwards last Saturday versus Fridley, falling 54-41.
As the saying goes, when you’re hot, you’re hot. When you’re not, you’re not.
After living and dying by the three-pointer all year, it finally caught up to them versus the Tigers as the Vikings shot just 28 percent from beyond the arc and 44 percent for the game.
Fridley started fast and furious, scoring the first 10 points of the game. North Branch didn’t even get onto the board until there was 1:19 left in the first quarter. The Vikings finished the quarter with six points, shooting 2-10 from the field.
“We started off slow and finished slower,” explained Baumann. “We missed our first seven shots. We played pretty good defense and kept a huge Fridley team at bay most of the night but we are struggling offensively. We regrouped in the second quarter and did some nice things.”
The Vikings did regroup, pulling within one point with two minutes left before halftime, then finally taking the lead twice, the last of which came at the buzzer on a Matt Fletcher three-pointer, putting North Branch in front 24-22.
The Vikings carried that momentum into the third quarter, building a five point lead before the Tigers roared back. Trailing 28-23, Fridley finished the third quarter on a 15-8 run. Still, thanks to a Britt Baumann three-pointer, the Vikings only trailed by two.
Then came the fourth quarter where the Vikings ship not only began to take on water, it began to sink at a furious rate.
After Fletcher tied the game 38-38 less than a minute into the fourth, the Tigers heated up, striking for 13 points to the Vikings five. While Fridley scored, North Branch missed, hitting only two of nine shots down the stretch, putting a final exclamation point on a 54-41 Fridley win.
“We have to really work at understanding there’s more to the game than just scoring and there are other things we can do that have really nothing to do with basketball,” remarked Baumann. “We are looking for our own shot too much and we need to do something to get our teammates open. When we play unselfish basketball, we can be pretty effective. The score was rather deceiving because that was a real battle until they (Fridley) made some shots at the end when we were taking some chances on the defensive end.”
The Vikings offensive struggles showed in the box score as only one player reached double figures, that was Fletcher who led the team with 14 points. Bowie McClaskie, Matt Nelson, and Jake Anderson each had six.
The loss was the end of a grueling stretch of games for the Vikings. Up next, the conference season heats up again, starting Friday at Milaca.
“We knew that was going to be a tough stretch in our schedule against some pretty good teams,” replied Baumann. “Now we need to regroup and get back to fundamentals and doing the little things that make us successful.”
North Branch 41
1 2 3 4 F
Fridley 12 10 16 16 54
North Branch 6 18 12 5 41
Fletcher 14, McClaskie 6, Nelson 6, Anderson 6, Baumann 5, Beaver 2, Stenberg 2.