December 10, 2009 at 9:47 a.m.
Sporting almost a brand new lineup, the North Branch boys basketball team opened their season up with a big victory over the Duluth Central Trojans.
After racing out to an early 13-4 lead behind six quick points from senior Kyle Grote, the Vikings cooled off as the Trojans ran off eight straight points to pull within one at 13-12. That was as close as Duluth Central would get almost all night.
The Vikings went on a 9-1 run soon after to stretch the lead back out to seven, and they eventually built it up to 13 points at 28-15.
Central, however, wouldn't go away early and was able to trim the lead back down to eight before the halftime buzzer sounded.
The sluggish play at the end of the half for the Vikings translated into the second half, as Central started to slowly chip away at the lead. With 10 minutes left in the game, the Trojans went on an 11-3 run to tie the game at 53.
It was the first, and only time of the game that North Branch didn't enjoy the lead.
Within seconds, Kosta Moore made a free throw on one trip down and sank a three-pointer on the next trip down to run off four consecutive points for the Vikes.
Until there was just under four minutes left in the game, the Trojans were able to stay close to the Vikings and keep them on their toes.
However, with the score 60-57 at that point in favor of the Vikings, they went on a 9-0 run to stretch the lead to 12 with just over a minute remaining. The late-game run essentially sealed the win for the Vikes.
"For a first game we have to be pretty pleased," Head Coach Bill Baumann said. "The mistakes we made were things we can correct as we continue to work on them in practice. With the style we are trying to play we still need to get into better shape."
The Vikings got good balance in their scoring department. Grote led the offensive charge with 18 points on five-of-14 shooting. He was also five-of-eight from the free throw line and he added five rebounds and two steals.
Anders Dahlberg made the most of his minutes, scoring 13 points in only 14 minutes of play. Moore added 10 points on the night.
"It was great to have the balanced scoring we received. Even though we only had three players in double digits for scoring, we basically had double digit scoring from all five positions that the kids were rotating in," Baumann explained. "Nine of the 10 kids that played scored, but more importantly they contributed on the defensive end and rebounding. Sean Graff is a perfect example. Even though he only had two points he led us in rebounds with eight. He isn't a very big guy so he had to work at it with boxouts and hustle."
Baumann realizes that he is going to need that depth through the whole year, as the Vikings play in the torrid North Suburban Conference. However, he is plenty confident in the way his bench is capable of playing.
"We have a very balanced team from top to bottom and we don't drop off when we sub," he said. "Our bench did a great job keeping the pressure on and doing what they do best."
Next up for the Vikings is a non-conference match up against St. Anthony Village, tonight at St. Anthony at 7:15.
The Vikes begin their NSC schedule a week later when they host the Fridley Tigers on Thursday, Dec. 17.
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