February 2, 2012 at 8:54 a.m.

Vikes earn redemption, beat Spring Lake Park

Vikes earn redemption, beat Spring Lake Park
Vikes earn redemption, beat Spring Lake Park

North Branch 53, St. Louis Park 34
A furious second half free throw barrage by the North Branch girls basketball team left St. Louis Park.
North Branch had a slim lead at halftime at 22-21, and the Orioles kept the game close throughout most of the second half also. “I thought we played a smart second half and kept our cool in a very physical game,” North Branch head man Dan Schindler said.
Sarah Lekson was the Vikes’ main weapon against the Orioles’ physicality, and she helped keep them at bay until they were up by six with four minutes left.
St. Louis Park moved to the fouling strategy, hoping if they kept hacking the Vikes that it would keep the clock on their side and allow them time to catch up.
What they didn’t count on was North Branch going 11-for-12 from the charity stripe for the last four minutes and stretching their lead to an insurmountable double-digit cushion.
 “We won the game on the free throw line and that's the way I like to win games,” Schindler said after the game.
Kallie Grote and Erin Reber went a combined 12-for-12 from the free throw line, and the Vikings as a team went 22-of-32 while St. Louis Park only attempted four free throws the whole game.
“It's always tough in the conference to get a road win, but the girls have kept working hard and it paid off,” Schindler said after the team ended their three-game skid.  
Lekson had a great game overall and led the Vikings  with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Grote added 11 points in the winning effort.
 
North Branch 61, Spring Lake Park 51
Despite counting the Panthers among one of their early-season losses, the Vikings weren’t intimidated in the least when they hosted Spring Lake Park this time around.
In the last game, which SLP won by 19 points, they used their size and physical advantage to push around the smaller Vikings, but North Branch took a stand this time.
The first half was back-and-forth and North Branch actually held a slight edge at the break 26-24. It was a far cry from their earlier meeting of the year when the Panthers had a 12-point lead at halftime.
But, in the second half, things started gravitating that way again. The Vikings were down by six points eight just over eight minutes left, but that’s where things started going right for NB.
Grote and Reber hit back-to-back three pointers to tie the game, and then it moved to another free throw battle, and Schindler liked his team’s chances.
 His faith was rewarded as the Vikings continually made it to the free throw line and kept making good on enough of them to create a comfortable lead of their own.
As North Branch pulled away down the stretch to capture the 61-51 victory, it was thanks in large party to their 27-of-40 shooting from the free throw line while Spring Lake Park only went 16-of-23.
“I thought it was a great team effort as all nine girls in our rotation gave us good minutes,” the head coach said. “Haley Huset did a nice job of handling their pressure on the press and we had four girls in double figures in scoring.”
Huset and Grote led that double-digit charge with 14 points each, Reber added 13 and Lekson had 12.
“Hopefully this game will be a confidence builder for us as we play the conference teams the second time around,” Schindler noted after the victory. 
 
Benilde-St. Margaret’s 66, North Branch 40
The Vikings had their first crack at the top-ranked Red Knights from Benilde-St. Margaret’s, and they just couldn’t topple the giants and fell to the wayside like most of BSM’s opponents this year.
“Sometimes you just have to give the other team credit.  They have been in the state tournament the past two years and it looks like they probably go again this year,” Schindler said. “They just have so many weapons.  When you stop their first two options they just go the third and score.”
Despite a ridiculous shooting percentage by the Red Knights in the first half, North Branch had held their own. The Vikings successfully stopped BSM’s potent inside game that features Division 1 players Josie Dillon and Khadija Shumpert, but Grace Coughlin and the rest of the Red Knights’ perimeter players shot 70 percent for the first half.
At the break, North Branch trailed 35-18, but it could’ve been a lot worse if Benilde had their inside game going.
“When we made that adjustment at halftime to limit their perimeter game, they beat us on the inside,” Schindler said. “Our girls played hard and I don't think anybody in the conference is going to beat [Benilde].”
Schindler still did see some positives in the game, despite the lopsided 66-40 loss. “Eighth grader Courtney Selbitschka keeps showing signs of improvement and made a couple of three pointers for us,” he said. “I also thought Emily Trunk -- who works hard every day -- came in and gave us some good minutes.  So you just learn from the game and take the positives to the next game.  Our goal is to continue to improve as a team for the tournament and I think we are on track.” 
North Branch 53, St. Louis Park 34
A furious second half free throw barrage by the North Branch girls basketball team left St. Louis Park.
North Branch had a slim lead at halftime at 22-21, and the Orioles kept the game close throughout most of the second half also. “I thought we played a smart second half and kept our cool in a very physical game,” North Branch head man Dan Schindler said.
Sarah Lekson was the Vikes’ main weapon against the Orioles’ physicality, and she helped keep them at bay until they were up by six with four minutes left.
St. Louis Park moved to the fouling strategy, hoping if they kept hacking the Vikes that it would keep the clock on their side and allow them time to catch up.
What they didn’t count on was North Branch going 11-for-12 from the charity stripe for the last four minutes and stretching their lead to an insurmountable double-digit cushion.
 “We won the game on the free throw line and that's the way I like to win games,” Schindler said after the game.
Kallie Grote and Erin Reber went a combined 12-for-12 from the free throw line, and the Vikings as a team went 22-of-32 while St. Louis Park only attempted four free throws the whole game.
“It's always tough in the conference to get a road win, but the girls have kept working hard and it paid off,” Schindler said after the team ended their three-game skid.  
Lekson had a great game overall and led the Vikings  with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Grote added 11 points in the winning effort.
 
North Branch 61, Spring Lake Park 51
Despite counting the Panthers among one of their early-season losses, the Vikings weren’t intimidated in the least when they hosted Spring Lake Park this time around.
In the last game, which SLP won by 19 points, they used their size and physical advantage to push around the smaller Vikings, but North Branch took a stand this time.
The first half was back-and-forth and North Branch actually held a slight edge at the break 26-24. It was a far cry from their earlier meeting of the year when the Panthers had a 12-point lead at halftime.
But, in the second half, things started gravitating that way again. The Vikings were down by six points eight just over eight minutes left, but that’s where things started going right for NB.
Grote and Reber hit back-to-back three pointers to tie the game, and then it moved to another free throw battle, and Schindler liked his team’s chances.
 His faith was rewarded as the Vikings continually made it to the free throw line and kept making good on enough of them to create a comfortable lead of their own.
As North Branch pulled away down the stretch to capture the 61-51 victory, it was thanks in large party to their 27-of-40 shooting from the free throw line while Spring Lake Park only went 16-of-23.
“I thought it was a great team effort as all nine girls in our rotation gave us good minutes,” the head coach said. “Haley Huset did a nice job of handling their pressure on the press and we had four girls in double figures in scoring.”
Huset and Grote led that double-digit charge with 14 points each, Reber added 13 and Lekson had 12.
“Hopefully this game will be a confidence builder for us as we play the conference teams the second time around,” Schindler noted after the victory. 
 
Benilde-St. Margaret’s 66, North Branch 40
The Vikings had their first crack at the top-ranked Red Knights from Benilde-St. Margaret’s, and they just couldn’t topple the giants and fell to the wayside like most of BSM’s opponents this year.
“Sometimes you just have to give the other team credit.  They have been in the state tournament the past two years and it looks like they probably go again this year,” Schindler said. “They just have so many weapons.  When you stop their first two options they just go the third and score.”
Despite a ridiculous shooting percentage by the Red Knights in the first half, North Branch had held their own. The Vikings successfully stopped BSM’s potent inside game that features Division 1 players Josie Dillon and Khadija Shumpert, but Grace Coughlin and the rest of the Red Knights’ perimeter players shot 70 percent for the first half.
At the break, North Branch trailed 35-18, but it could’ve been a lot worse if Benilde had their inside game going.
“When we made that adjustment at halftime to limit their perimeter game, they beat us on the inside,” Schindler said. “Our girls played hard and I don't think anybody in the conference is going to beat [Benilde].”
Schindler still did see some positives in the game, despite the lopsided 66-40 loss. “Eighth grader Courtney Selbitschka keeps showing signs of improvement and made a couple of three pointers for us,” he said. “I also thought Emily Trunk -- who works hard every day -- came in and gave us some good minutes.  So you just learn from the game and take the positives to the next game.  Our goal is to continue to improve as a team for the tournament and I think we are on track.” 

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