January 25, 2007 at 7:18 a.m.
Both teams seemed tight from the game's onset. Baskets were hard to come by as usually dependable shooters were missing, often badly, in the early minutes. Viking senior Justin Novak broke the ice with a drive to the west hoop at the 15:49 mark. A minute later, Nick Perrin stole the ball and got the ball upcourt to Novak who made it 4-0 Vikings with another explosive move to the hoop.
That was enough for Wildcat head coach Herb Jangor. He called his first timeout. His team responded by scoring the game's next seven points. With 13:33 on the clock, senior Zach Sill put his team on the board when he put back his own miss and completed the three-point-play from the line. Thirty seconds later, Tyler Bouwens found Joe Knafla in the lane. Knafla scored and followed that with another short-range basket. At the 12:36 mark, the 'Cats were up 7 to 4.
North Branch head coach Bill Baumann's squad finally ended a five-minute scoring drought when Perrin dropped a three with 9:50 left. Seconds later, Scott Leigh gave CL the lead, again, with a shot from the lane. A Perrin bucket and Novak's two freethrows gave the Vikings their second lead (11-9) midway through the half.
The Wildcats countered with a 9-1 run to take an 18-12 lead at 5:45. During that span, Knafla, Sill and Brian Jennissen scored from inside before Chris Golv connected from behind the arc.
Jake Chambers started a Viking resurgence with a freethrow at 4:24. Sophomore guard Ryan Norman gave his team a boost when he alertly stole a Wildcat inbounds pass under the Viking basket and converted for two. Chambers drilled a three on the next Viking possession to tie it at 18.
The Wildcats regained the lead when Knafla scored from the lane with 3:10 left. A Perrin three, two Novak free shots and a Chambers three put the Vikings up 26-20 with a minute left.
If there was a turning point in the game, it might have occurred in that last minute. With momentum on NB's side, Golv and Jennissen hit long three's while the Viking shooters didn't find the net before halftime. "A key was when we got down 26-20. We clamped down defensively and hit some big shots. We didn't get down on ourselves," said Jangor.
With the score knotted at 26, both teams went to their locker rooms knowing it was gonna be, "another one of those games."
A Sill 12-foot banker gave the 'Cats a two point lead two minutes into the second half. A Perrin putback created a 28-28 tie 30 seconds later. The two teams battled evenly for the first two thirds of the half. Scoreboard watchers saw ties at 30, 31, 34, 36 and, with 6:18 on the clock, a Novak three pointer made it 39 all.
Sill, Taylor Jones, Bouwens, Knafla, and Golv all scored for the 'Cats during that stretch. Points by the Vikings' Chambers, Novak and John Lindstrom matched the CL output.
At 6:05, a Sill drive gave the Wildcats the lead for good. Two Golv freethrows and Jennissen's second three of the contest gave Chisago a 46-39 advantage with 4:39 on the clock.
Just when it looked like the Wildcats might pull away, Novak rose above a mass of much taller cagers to tip in a Viking miss with 4:20 left. Chambers' two freethrows made it 46-43 at 3:56.
After a timeout, the Wildcats got the ball inside to Josh Figini, who was fouled as he tried to get to the hoop. His two freethrows were matched by Bryce Hunter's charity shots. The Wildcat advantage stayed at 48-45 until Bouwens found Sill open for two with a minute left.
The Vikings put Bouwens an the line twice in the last minute. He went 4 for 4 from the line before Chambers' last-second three made the final 54-48 in the Wildcats' favor.
Chisago Lakes 26 28 54
North Branch 26 22 48
Chisago Lakes Scoring
Tyler Bouwens 7
Chris Golv 11
Brian Jennissen 8
Zach Sill 13
Josh Figini 2
Joe Knafla 10
Taylor Jones 1
Scott Leigh 2
North Branch Scoring
Ryan Norman 2
Justin Novak 14
Nick Perrin 10
John Lindstrom 5
Jake Chambers 14
Bryce Hunter 3
The Wildcats are back in action at home Friday, January 26 against Fridley before travelling to Benilde-St. Margaret's Tuesday, January 30. Both games begin at 7:15.
The Vikings host Tartan Thursday, January 25 at 7:15 and travel to Rogers for a 3 p.m. start Saturday, January 27.