January 29, 2004 at 2:00 p.m.
The game came at a perfect time. Playing shorthanded due to injuries, the Vikings took to the court last Tuesday versus Zimmerman with 16 players on their varsity roster- 12 scored, giving North Branch more than enough to defeat the winless Thunder 85-39.
Zimmerman, playing in their first year EVER as a varsity sport, as expected, was tremendously outmatched.
“That was a good game for us to get a lot of our younger players some work,” mentioned Bill Baumann, North Branch boys head basketball coach. “We had some things we wanted to work on and we had a great opportunity to do just that.”
In other words, the game was never close.
The Vikings opened up the first quarter with their usual quick start, scoring the first 13 points on four three-pointers and a free throw. That stretch was ruled by Britt Baumann who accounted for three of the four treys. After the Thunder scored their first basket of the game more than four minutes in, the Vikings finished the first on a 11-4 run, putting them in front 24-6 after one.
As in the first, the second quarter began almost the same exact way. North Branch opened up the second with 11 straight points (three 3-pointers), pushing their lead to 29, 37-8. The Vikings lead grew to as much as 36 points late in the quarter. It was 34 at the break, 55-21.
“We really didn’t shoot the ball well at the beginning of the game but then we heated up and put a lot of points on the board from late in the first quarter to the half,” remarked Baumann. “We wanted to get back to pushing the ball up the court and it really paid off in the first half.”
Paid off indeed. Things went so well for North Branch in the first that seven players scored, three reaching double figures. Baumann and Fletcher led the way, each scoring 12 points in the first half, 16 minutes remained!
It didn’t take long for both to add to their totals in the third quarter. Fletcher, Baumann, and Matt Nelson accounted for 14 of the Vikings 17 third quarter points, extending their lead to 47 through three quarters of play, 72-25.
Forty seven points was as high as the lead got as Zimmerman tacked on 14 points in the fourth quarter against the Vikings bench. For North Branch, Travis Peterson, Al Moore, Dominic Stahley, Matt Warren, and Brian Tell all scored points down the stretch, settling on a 85-39 win.
Fletcher finished the game with 17 points while Baumann added 15. Jake Anderson scored 11 in the game, all in the first half, and Nelson contributed with nine. In total, the Vikings dished out 23 assists and turned the ball over only three times.
“It shows we are working well as a team and finding the open player,” mentioned Baumann. “We also took good care of the basketball.”
The win improved the Vikings conference mark to 7-0 and 11-3 overall.
North Branch 85
1 2 3 4 F
Zimmerman 6 15 4 14 39
North Branch 24 31 17 13 85
Fletcher 17, Baumann 15, Anderson 11, Nelson 9, Moore 7, Beaver 7, Peterson 6, Moriarty 4, D. Stahley 3, Forrest 3, Tell 2, Warren 1.
North Branch 68
Big Lake 51
Last Friday, some things changed and some things remained the same for the Vikings. Unfortunately, they were still shorthanded with injuries, that was the same. Their opponent was not in Big Lake, leading to some initial concern for Baumann and his staff. After all, defeating Zimmerman with a shortened line-up is one thing, but Big Lake?
North Branch knew a strong start would ease the tension. Instead, the Vikings went above and beyond, exploding out of the locker room.
After Big Lake opened up the scoring, Matt Fletcher kicked off a string where the Vikings scored the next nine points, putting them in front 9-2 less than a minute into the game. Yes, nine points in less than a minute.
“We really attacked from the opening tip,” said Baumann. “They got the first bucket and we came down and Matt (Fletcher) converted a three-point play. Britt (Baumann) then hit a three followed by threes from Matt (Nelson) and Fletcher, all off assists from Jake (Anderson). Tony (Beaver) followed with a couple of inside baskets and we had control of the game.
Control is right. Leading 12-4, the Vikings outscored the Hornets 12-5 over the final six minutes of the first quarter, taking a 24-9 lead into the second. However, with the good came the bad. Late in the first, Beaver’s name was added to the list of walking wounded.
“We were starting short handed and things got worse in the first when Tony (Beaver) dislocated his shoulder and we ended up with some foul trouble,” remembered Baumann. “We had suited Bowie (McClaskie) as an emergency player in hopes of giving him some workout in the pregame, but when Tony went down, we were forced to use him. Not playing at 100 percent, he gave us a great performance.”
Calling the game “one of the gutsiest performances he had ever seen by a team,” Baumann witnessed his team answer the call the rest of the way. North Branch matched Big Lake shot for shot in the second, giving them a 15 point lead at the break, 36-21.
Knowing that the Hornets were going to attack in the third, the Vikings turned up their game, in particular, Matt Fletcher and Matt Nelson.
Leading 36-24 early in the third quarter, the Matt twins combined for a 11-0 run, catapulting North Branch in front by 23 points. Big Lake answered back with two three-pointers, eventually trimming the Viking lead to 16 at the end of the quarter, not nearly enough.
Jake Anderson and Greg Moriarty began the fourth with three-pointers, Anderson with two, sending the Hornets to the showers. From there, the Matt twins finished the show, sealing the game from the free throw line. After scoring a quiet 22 points in the first half, Fletcher added 14 more in the second, finishing the game with 36. Nelson finished with 10, almost all coming in the second.
“Matt Fletcher was outstanding,” said Baumann. “He had 36 points but he didn’t take anymore shots than he normally does, he just shot phenomenal. In fact, two of the shots he missed he got his own rebound and put it back in. Jake (Anderson) and Matt Nelson also played outstanding, and Britt (Baumann) was in the passing lanes all night. Greg Moriarty played his most minutes of the year and did a great job, especially on the defensive end, and Bowie (McClaskie) had no lift offensively from the sprained ankle but he was able to play great defense and hauled in eight rebounds.”
In other words, it was a total team effort,a typical North Branch win. The victory was their 12 of the season and their fifth in a row.
“I hope we can build off this performance for the rest of the year,” replied Baumann. “We were looking for a game like this to give us some momentum and hopefully this is it.”
We will soon know. The Vikings have two more conference games this week with Foley and Princeton, plus two more next week including a road matchup with Chisago Lakes.
North Branch 68
Big Lake 51
1 2 3 4 F
North Branch 24 12 18 14 68
Big Lake 9 12 17 13 51
Fletcher 36, Nelson 10, Anderson 9, Baumann 5, Beaver 4, Moriarty 3, McClaskie 1.