January 20, 2005 at 9:14 a.m.
The game definitely wasn’t pretty, or at times, even that entertaining. However, when the Vikings needed to take control and grab a win they did, using a 16-4 run to defeat Zimmerman last Tuesday night in North Branch.
To say that both teams began the game slowly would be an understatement. On offense, the Vikings struggled mightily, missing almost every shot they took. That kept the Thunder in the game as Zimmerman stayed close with free throws. Meanwhile, North Branch was paced by their defense as both teams finished the first quarter tied 11-11.
The second quarter played out just like the first. Again, the Vikings couldn’t buy a basket, despite the efforts of Jill VandenHeuvel who controlled the boards, giving North Branch a much needed spark. On the other side of the court, Zimmerman matched the Vikings for a second straight period, making the score 22-22 at the half on 11 more points for both teams.
“It was actually a real frustrating game for us as the basket seemed to have a lid on it for us,” said Dan Schindler, North Branch head girls basketball coach. “But our defense was a key to our win. I like how the girls didn’t let the offensive end of the court affect our defense. We contested almost every shot of Zimmerman’s and it certainly kept us in the game.”
Good thing because North Branch continued to shoot poorly in the third. Things were so bad at one point that, despite tossing up 38 shots to Zimmerman’s 10, the game was tied. Adding insult to injury, after outscoring the Vikings 6-4, North Branch trailed 28-26 with one quarter left.
But relief was on the way. After feeling miserable on the offensive end all game, the Vikings shot their way back to respectability when it counted, using a 16-4 run to not only re-take the lead, but sail to a 42-32 win. Tiffany Good sparked the comeback with a clutch three-pointer as time wound down and Gabi Olson sank five free throws. It was just enough offense to turn the tide.
“Nobody shot the ball well but a three-pointer by Tiffany and five to six free throws by Gabi were enough to get the win,” remarked Schindler. “Shooting is a funny thing. Sometimes, the harder you try the worse it gets. I know the girls can make shots. We are getting good shots. We just have to relax and make them. When we do we will be able to have some easy games in the fourth quarter. I like how we were able to keep our composure and keep fighting to get the job done.”
The win, paired with a Chisago Lakes loss pulled the Vikings into third place tie in the conference with the Wildcats after the game, improving their conference mark to 6-2.
North Branch 42
1 2 3 4 F
Zimmerman 11 11 6 4 32
North Branch 11 11 4 16 42
Olson 11, Good 9, VandenHeuvel 8, Anderson 8, Robatcek 4, Stegmeir 2.
North Branch 51
Big Lake 29
Versus Big Lake last Friday, offense was nearly as much of a problem for the Vikings as it was three nights earlier. However, it was their defense that was once again the story as North Branch stung the Hornets by holding them to just eight points in the first half!
Not that they needed it, North Branch jumped in front with 11 points in the first quarter. They didn’t need it because on defense the Vikings were sensational, holding Big Lake to six points through eight minutes of basketball.
If that’s not impressive enough, in the second quarter, North Branch extended their lead by outscoring Big Lake 10-2, pushing their halftime lead to 21-8.
“Our one consistent phase of the game has been defense and we again really did a nice job against Big Lake,” mentioned Schindler. “We contested their shots and only gave them one shot per possession. Holding a team to eight first half points gives you little chance to win most games.”
Both teams ran out the locker room to start the second half and immediately started scoring as the scoreboard began to move. For Big Lake, after scoring eight points in the entire first half, the Hornets scored 14 in the third quarter. As for North Branch, the Vikings didn’t skip a beat, answering Big Lake with 14 of their own, allowing them to maintain their 13 point lead. The Vikings then slammed the door on Big Lake in the fourth with 16 more points while only giving up seven. Everyone got involved in the Vikings fourth-quarter surge. Gabi Olson ended up with 17 points in the game to lead North Branch in scoring. She was one of nine players to score for the Vikings.
“We made some of those same shots we missed against Zimmerman, and once we got a nice 10-12 point lead, we seemed to play a little bit more relaxed,” remarked Schindler. “We know we aren’t a real high powered offensive team this year, but if we can score 50 or more points, we know our defense is good enough to win most games. I thought our bench really came in and did a nice job. Kacie Ramberg, Ashley Klein, Marlayna Graff, and Kristen Robatcek really gave us some nice minutes.”
The game marked the end of the first half of conference play. With the win, North Branch moved into third place at 7-2 in the Rum, in addition to improving to 11-5 overall. With nine league games left, the Vikings find themselves one and a half games off the lead.
North Branch 51
Big Lake 29
1 2 3 4 F
North Branch 11 10 14 16 51
Big Lake 6 2 14 7 29
Olson 17, Stegmeir 9, Anderson 8, Ramberg 5, Robatcek 4, Good 3, VandenHeuvel 2, Graff 2, Scherer 1.
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