December 8, 2011 at 8:37 a.m.
In sports, no matter what the game or who the opponent is, the contests are never played on paper.
What seemed like a glorified scrimmage for North Branch to open the season turned to an almost near disaster after a tough first half against Four Directions Charter School out of Minneapolis.
The tiny school, which has an enrollment of 63 students and only features boys and girls basketball as sports, went 16-8 last year, but they stuck to other small schools and charter schools.
This year, North Branch hosted the charter school as their opening game, and things almost backfired when the Wolves went up 12-2 in the early stages of the game. For most of the first half of the contest, Four Directions kept a 10-point lead behind some hot shooting from Andrew Bigsmoke and Tim Tallman.
The Vikings, on the other hand, were jacking up threes from all angles, and nothing was falling for them. They went 0-for-15 from beyond the arc in the first half.
"We have a very young team and it showed in the first half tonight," second year Head Coach David Anderson said. "We came out against a confident Four Directions team and let them control the tempo early on. Our guys played a little timid and we couldn't get much going offensively because our shots just wouldn't fall."
But, North Branch found a play inside that was working against Four Directions, and they kept going to the well, and eventually the shots started falling. The Vikings trimmed the lead to four by halftime, as Four Directions was up 27-23.
In the second half, North Branch took control of the tempo and began to work at their own pace, frustrating the Wolves. Eventually, North Branch wasn't having trouble with Four Directions' zone defense at all, and they seized the lead and wouldn't relinquish it.
"In the second half our guys really adjusted well and we came out ready to play," Anderson explained. "Our guys executed well against the zone they threw at us and our point guard, Travis Van Elsberg, played extremely well and really helped us control the tempo in the second half."
Anderson was also pleased with the play of his lone senior in uniform Tyler Knobbe (senior Thomas Kinsella sat out the game with an ankle injury). "Tyler Knobbe really stepped up big and provided an offensive spark for us," Anderson said. "His shooting and intensity on the boards in the second half is really what drove and the whole team fed off of his energy."
Anderson and his team know there is still a bunch of work left to be done. Four Directions is a solid team, but nothing like the rigors they'll face night in and night out in the North Suburban Conference. " It was a great way to start our year and hopefully will help spring board us into the rest of our season," Anderson said.