March 12, 2004 at 9:26 a.m.
At the beginning of the season, Bill Baumann asked his team about one of its season goals. The Vikings had written down that they wanted to go undefeated in the conference. Looking to clarify, Baumann assumed they meant win the conference. No, the Vikings wanted to go undefeated, a bold prediction that last Friday became reality. Standing at 17-0 in the Rum River conference, North Branch completed their perfect season last Friday by defeating Foley 54-43. The win pushed the Vikings final season conference record to a mind-boggling 18-0.
“To go through the conference season undefeated is an amazing accomplishment,” said Baumann. “To win 18 games without stumbling is a real credit to the kids.”
Oh, there were hurdles along the way…..the Vikings just ran through them. For example, against the Falcons, it was obvious from the very beginning that Foley wanted to play the spoiler. The game was almost as physical as it was intense, even though North Branch jumped out to an early 19-10 lead. Helped out by four first quarter three-pointers, the Vikings appeared to be in control after one before Foley slowly battled back. The Falcons started the second by scoring the first five points, cutting the North Branch lead to four before the Vikings pushed it back to nine. For the next two quarters, that’s literally how the quarter went. Foley would make a run followed by a North Branch answer. Leading by nine at the break, 31-22, the Falcons made their move late in the third, outscoring the Vikings 8-2 over the final five minutes of the quarter, cutting the deficit to three after three, 39-36.
With the Vikings undefeated dream about to slip away, senior Matt Fletcher answered the call, making it reality. Already with three three-pointers under his belt, Fletcher opened up the fourth with three more, back-to-back-to-back. It seemed the more pressure Foley put on the sharpshooter, the more confident Fletcher got. Before anyone knew, with three quick flicks of the wrist, the North Branch lead was 12, 48-36.
“The team took the Foley run as a challenge and came out in the fourth quarter and then scored the first 11 points to take control of the game,” replied Baumann. “Matt (Fletcher) accepted the challenge personally.”
So did the North Branch defense as the Vikings held Foley to seven points down the stretch, pulling away en route to a 54-43 win. In the fourth quarter alone, North Branch outscored the Falcons 15-7.
“Again our defense was the key,” mentioned Baumann. “We held Foley to 43 points and kept our season average for our opponents below 50.”
Along with his 26 points, 18 from three-point land, Fletcher finished the game with 13 rebounds. Matt Nelson also reached double figures, scoring 15 points.
After the game, the Vikings were awarded the Rum River conference championship trophy, a perfect way to end one season and begin another. Sections start on Thursday (3-11). The Vikings are the number one seed.
North Branch 54
1 2 3 4 F
Foley 10 12 14 7 43
North Branch 19 12 8 15 54
Fletcher 26, Nelson 15, Baumann 5, Anderson 3, Beaver 3, McClaskie 2.