February 11, 2010 at 10:43 a.m.
The North Branch boys basketball team had a good chance to get two more North Suburban Conference wins under their belt last week, but in both efforts, they came up just short.
The week began with an abnormal Monday game, and Head Coach Bill Baumann didn't like what he saw from the boys in the game. "This was a strange game," he said. "The problem was we were playing without any emotion, almost like we were tired. I don't know if it is because it was a Monday game or what, but that shouldn't have been an excuse, St. Francis also had to play that day."
The two teams traded leads and ties throughout the whole first half. The biggest lead was held by St. Francis at 10-5, but North Branch also had a four point lead at 25-21. There was seven lead changes and three ties in the opening frame.
The second half was a carbon copy of the first half between the two evenly-matched teams. St. Francis stayed out front for most of the half, but they never stretched their lead much past four or five points.
With just over two minutes left, North Branch finally took another lead behind a three-pointer from Forrest Huset. Two free throws from the Saints, however, got the lead back into their favor, and they wouldn't relinquish it for the rest of the game.
Huset cut the lead to one at 57-56 with a three-pointer with only seven seconds left, but the Saints made their free throws down the stretch and North Branch couldn't score any more points.
"It finally boiled down to fundamentals," Baumann explained. "St. Francis made their free throws and we didn't. We did make 20-of-33 but St. Francis made 22-of-28.
"Basically we are not taking advantage of opportunities when we have them and we are providing too many opportunities to the opposition."
Huset led the Vikings in scoring with 14 points. He also added nine rebounds in the losing effort. Kyle Grote scored 13 points as he shot eight-of-eight from the free throw line.
Totino-Grace 62, North Branch 47
Coming into the game, the Eagles had a very similar record to the Vikes, and both teams knew it was going to come down to executed their game plan better. The Eagles were 6-10 on the season coming into the game and the Vikes were 7-10.
North Branch had a fast start in this game, something they aren't completely used to, but they couldn't make it count.
After jumping out to a 13-4 lead, Totino turned the tide and started making a charge that turned into a lead. "Totino fought their way back and we didn't respond," Baumann said. "We seem to play well when things are going good but we need to respond when things start to turn around."
By the end of the opening half, the Vikings had only scored three more points to the 21 that Totino had rung up, leading to a 25-16 lead for the Eagles.
Baumann frustratingly pointed at turnovers as the Vikings main downfall after their hot start.
"We had 17 turnovers and 10 of them were what we call "unforced" errors," he said. "We have to take better care of the ball and make sure we get a good possession every time. Sometimes we rush ourselves and we just don't finish off possessions. We work really hard but it sometimes becomes fruitless when we hurry ourselves offensively."
The Vikings didn't do themselves any favors in the second half, going on long droughts and allowing Totino-Grace second chances. The Eagles took advantage of that and stretch the lead to 26 at one point, and North Branch never had much of a chance after that point.
Christian Ehrnriter led the Vikings with 15 points. Huset added 13 points and eight rebounds.
Baumann explained some of the team's woes, which are stemming from tough shooting and fundamentals. "We haven't been shooting very well from the perimeter but if we are patient we can usually break the defense down and get something on the inside," he said. "Our defense has been pretty good as long as we stay in our defensive stance, communicate, and then rebound."
Although both losses on the week were tough, and both were games that the Vikings went in with a good chance of winning, Baumann is still looking forward to the postseason, when everyone starts out at 0-0 again.
"We have to keep working and keep our eyes on the finish," he said. "We have to figure out a way to improve our weaknesses and aim for improvement."