March 18, 2010 at 8:51 a.m.
Despite a noticeable disparity in the team's records, the 9-17 North Branch Vikings earned a home playoff game as the fourth seed against the fifth-seeded 12-14 Hibbing Bluejackets.
Because of the stiff competition North Branch faced this year in comparison to Hibbing, they earned the home site match up. The seeds could've proved to be a big difference with demanding traveling schedule for the spread out Section 7AAA, but Hibbing took care of business after a game filled with monster runs and gargantuan momentum swings.
The Bluejackets jumped out to an early 8-2 lead over the home team, but the North Branch crowd quickly rejuvenated the Vikes, and they went on a huge 24-3 run to take an early 26-11 lead.
North Branch had hoped to keep the pressure on for the rest of the first half and go into halftime with a sizeable lead, but the Jackets wouldn't roll over. To end the opening half, Hibbing went on a 15-2 run to trim the once large lead to two points at 28-26.
Head Coach Bill Baumann knew the second half would be tough to fend off the surging Jackets. The Vikes went into the game without leading scorer Kyle Grote, who was out with an injury, and despite the early lead, it would be hard to sustain a lead once Hibbing found a way to limit the Vikes secondary scorers. "We knew we had to find some offense with Kyle Grote out and it was really evident when Hibbing went to a zone late in the first half and in the second half," Baumann explained. "Kyle had always been the one to get the other team out of their zone with his shooting. We had jumped out to the lead in the first half by attacking them on the inside. We had no one that was hitting the outside shot with consistency to pull them out of the zone, though."
Hibbing pulled ahead midway through the second half using that zone defense, but with about three minutes remaining in the game, a big Christian Ehrnriter pulled the Vikings back ahead of the Bluejackets.
Hibbing responded with a steal on the Vikes next trip down the court and an easy basket, which swung the scoreboard back in favor of Hibbing. The Bluejackets proceeded to make their clutch free throws down the stretch, and they sealed the 51-47 win.
"Before the game our coaching staff was talking and we thought that we would need 55 points to win the game because we had confidence in our defense," Baumann said. "We were right, the only problem was we only scored 47."
A trio of seniors led the Vikings in scoring in the game as Anders Lindstrom scored 12, Kosta Moore and Sean Graff had seven points each and Sean Franks and Christian Ehrnriter scored six.
"The kids never gave up this year. They continually worked hard each and every day. They could have quit multiple times but they refused to give up on themselves. They proved what fine young men they are when they raised over $6,000 in the Coaches vs Cancer challenge," Baumann pointed out. "They stepped up to the plate and gave of themselves for someone else. That just proves the character of these fine young men and they were a pleasure to coach. They made it enjoyable to come to practice everyday. We, the players and coaches, would like to thank all the people that supported us all year...we appreciate it and say thank you to everyone."
Besides Lindstrom, Graff and Moore, the Vikings will also lose Grote and Franks to graduation this year.
In the second round of sections, Hibbing was knocked out by top-seeded Grand Rapids, losing 81-44.
Commenting has been disabled for this item.