December 9, 2010 at 3:03 p.m.
With so many girls gone because of graduation from last year's team, the North Branch girls basketball team was obviously going to have some nerve-wracking moments in their opening game of the year.
But, with 10 of the 13 girls basically brand new to varsity, the growing pains were a little too much for North Branch to overcome, as they dropped the season opener 55-43 to St. Anthony. "It was a typical first game of the season with many of the players being nervous," Head Coach Dan Schindler said. "It will definitely take us some time for these players to feel comfortable and get some game experience."
Early turnovers and poor shooting led the Vikings to an early hole and St. Anthony capitalized on it with a 15-point lead. North Branch was able to get it together a bit and chip the lead down some, but they still went into halftime down 14 points.
In the second half, the Vikings really changed their approach and were able to outscore St. Anthony for the half, but it wasn't nearly enough to make up for the early deficit. "I thought we did a much better job the second half and we outscored them 22-20," Schindler noted. "This is a team that has alot of ability and it will just take some time for everyone to figure out their roles and how they fit on the team."
The Vikings were led by their two returning starters with the most experience. Senior guard Kendra Norman scored 11 points and had 10 steals and Sarah Lekson also netted 11 and 12 rebounds. "Kendra and Sarah both have played on the varsity and I expected them to lead us in the first game," Schindler said after the loss. "I thought freshman Haley Huset and sophomore Annette Olson -- both playing in their first varsity games -- did a nice job for us. Annette had six points and11 rebounds and Haley did a nice job in the front of our press. Many of the mistakes that we made are very correctable and I told the girls we just need to get back in the gym and start making those adjustments."
North Branch 63, St. Paul Harding 17
The Vikings got just what they needed after their opening loss to St. Anthony. A simple dose of St. Paul Harding
The Knights were no match at any point for the Vikings, as North Branch jumped all over them, and held nearly a 40-point lead by halftime. "Our press worked well and when your press is working you get easy baskets," Schindler explained. "It was nice for us to be able to play all our girls and many of them got needed experience."
After racing out to an 18-2 lead, North Branch kept their foot on the pedal, leading at halftime 44-6. Two of Harding's points came with just a few ticks left on the clock in the first half on two free throws.
Eleven players were able to score for the Vikings, including a game-high 14 points by Norman. Huset added 13 points. "Haley continues to play well and it's always exciting to see a freshman come up and play well on varsity," Schindler said. "I also thought Kallie Grote (nine points) and Erin Reber (eight points) played a very steady game."
Among other scorers were Taylor Beaver, Cassedy Coleman, Annette Olson, Carly Hinschberger, Katherine Helbig, Lekson, and Chelsea Tollberg.
The Vikings play Minneapolis Patrick Henry in Minneapolis tonight at 7:15, and they play all girls school Visitation at 3 p.m. on Saturday.