February 16, 2012 at 8:37 a.m.
Robbinsdale Cooper 74, North Branch 47
The Vikings dropped their first game of the week when they took on Robbinsdale Cooper, who is second in the conference behind only Benilde-St. Margaret’s and ranked in the top 10 in Class AAAA.
“They are good team and really shot the basketball well against us,” Head Coach Dan Schindler said. “At times we struggled with their quickness on the press and they got some easy lay-ups. But when we did handle their press they just didn't miss very much.”
For the game, Cooper shot 56 percent, and that’s going to be good enough for a win more often than not.
The Hawks had a 26 point lead at halftime. North Branch kept it close in the second half when Cooper brought some subs in, but it wasn’t nearly enough to muster a comeback.
“We are not a high powered offense and we need to keep opponents in the 40s or 50s to compete,” Schindler said. “We watched the tape and took some good things we did out of the game and then pretty much just moved on.”
Kallie Grote was the only Viking in double figures, as she scored 13 points for North Branch.
North Branch 41, Irondale 39
Despite only being 7-14 going into the contest, Irondale presented a tough challenge for North Branch since they are a big, physical team, and that’s what has given North Branch fits this year.
The Knights established that physicality early as they jumped out to a 24-16 lead by halftime.
“We played the game at the tempo we wanted but struggled scoring in the first half,” Schindler noted. “But we did a nice job on defense and that kept us in the game.”
Irondale hit a three to begin the second half, putting North Branch in an 11 point hole, but their stingy defense limited Irondale to only 12 more points the rest of the night, pulling even, and eventually grabbing the victory on senior night.
“I am really proud of how hard the team kept playing and our girls never gave up, Schindler said. “Even though we were down by 11, everyone kept working and we got back in the basketball game.”
Fittingly, on senior night, seniors Grote and Erin Reber led North Branch in scoring at 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Schindler also noted that senior Cassedy Coleman played great defense against Irondale’s big post player, and that’s what allowed North Branch to come back in the contest.
“Those three have worked hard all year and it was nice to get a win on their special night,” Schindler said.
Junior Sarah Lekson also added eight points and eight rebounds in the winning effort.
North Branch 65, Proctor 25
In Proctor, the Vikings took on one of their new section opponents, albeit one that was struggling at 4-14.
Schindler said he was a little worried about playing back-to-back as the Vikes had just knocked off Irondale the night before, and his worries were founded when North Branch got off to a bit of a sluggish start.
However, they rebounded quickly and enjoyed a 31-14 cushion at halftime. The lead was fueled by a couple three’s by Haley Huset and some balanced scoring all the way around -- for the game, 10 different Vikings scored.
Lekson allowed North Branch to completely take over and stretch that lead in the second half when she started working the post down low. She ended up leading the Vikings with 18 points.
“I thought Emily Trunk, Jessica Merchant, Coleman and Courtney Selbitschka came in and gave us good energy,” Schindler said. “It’s important that we can keep pressure on when they come into the game.”
Schindler was also proud of the way his team played defense all night, keeping intensity up even when reserves came in.
“Our defense was super all night and especially in the second half as we held Proctor to just 11 points,” he said. “We were able to give all our players some good minutes tonight.”
Grote added 10 points in the winning effort, Merchant had eight and Selbitschka had seven.
The win moved the girls overall record to 14-8 for the year.
They took on St. Francis earlier this week and then they close the regular season with three games in a week, including match ups with conference kingpins Totino-Grace and Chisago Lakes.
As they stand now, the Vikings are well positioned for a home game in the first round of sections. Chisago Lakes and Hermantown seem to be the top two seeds, but North Branch is right in the running for a third or fourth seed.
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