February 24, 2011 at 12:34 p.m.

North Branch continues to struggle in North Suburban, drops two contests

North Branch continues to struggle in North Suburban, drops two contests
North Branch continues to struggle in North Suburban, drops two contests

St. Francis 52, North Branch 44

With Senior Night at North Branch on the docket, the team was hoping to send their trio of seniors, Chelsea Tollberg, Carly Hinschberger and Kendra Norman, out with a win.

But, St. Francis had a different idea for the Vikings elder players.

After an evenly matched first half, in which the two squads went shot for shot with each other, they moved into the second half tied at 25-25.

In the beginning of the second half, North Branch came out scorching hot, grabbing a quick lead and stretching it to seven points at 38-31 with just nine minutes left in the contest.

But, offensive inconsistency has plagued North Branch all year, and senior night was no different. The Vikings went on a nasty scoring drought, getting outscored 21-6 the rest of the way, and St. Francis claimed the win by a 52-44 tally.

"During that stretch we got some good shots, but weren't able to convert," Head Coach Dan Schindler said. "We just need to play better team basketball when we hit those droughts and get easier shots. We tend to rush some shots and quit running our offense and that gets us in trouble."

In the end, North Branch had to foul St. Francis to stop the clock, and the Saints made good on their free throws to stretch the late lead to the eight point margin they won by.

Schindler noted that Tollberg gave the Vikings quality minutes, scoring eight points and really helping the Vikes out on offense.

Sarah Lekson led the offense with 12 points while Norman added 10 points in the losing effort.

Schindler had nothing but praise for the senior trio, along with senior manager Gerrian Buisman. "These four ladies have done so much for our program both on and off the court and have been great leaders for us," he said.

Totino-Grace 65, North Branch 63

The Vikings played one of their most complete games against the Totino-Grace Eagles late in the week, but it just wasn't enough to get a win against their high-powered offense.

"This was a very good basketball game. We did a great job offensively in this game, something we have been working very hard on in practice," Schindler said. "The only problem is that we were playing Totino and they have many scoring weapons themselves."

The Vikings stayed right with Totino-Grace throughout the first half, trailing by only three points at 33-30 at halftime.

As the second half began, the Vikings did have a lone bad spurt of the game. The Eagles scored the first 10 points of the second half to take a 13 point lead, and things looked bleak for North Branch as they've struggled putting the ball in the basket.

The girls didn't give up though, and they slowly battled back. With just over a minute left, the Vikings trimmed the Eagle lead to three at 63-60.

Although Totino had the ball, North Branch forced a turnover using their tenacious defense and had a chance to tie the game, but a three point shot fell just short.

The Vikings were able to add a late three pointer, but the Eagles had the game wrapped up by then.

"I was really proud to see our players not quit and bounce back," Schindler said. "I thought it was our best team effort in a long time."

The Vikings found their offensive edge in sophomore Emily Trunk. She played an "exceptional" game according to Schindler as she scored 17 points and played aggressively.

"We have been looking for some of our younger players to step up their game and Emily really did," he said. "If Emily can continue to do that, it will really help our team down the stretch."

Norman and Lekson both had good games for North Branch, also, with Norman scoring a team-high 18 points and Lekson adding 17.

One of the other keys for North Branch was their effective shooting from the free throw line. They went 21-of-24 for the game, and it really kept them close with the Eagles.

"We are never happy to lose but know if we can duplicate that effort we can play with anyone," Schindler said after the game. "It doesn't get any easier though as we play Chisago Lakes to close out the season."

The heated rivalry tips off in North Branch at 5:45 followed by the boys game.

At halftime the schools will be presenting the Coaches vs. Cancer check to the Cancer Society. The players of both schools have been raising money for it.


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