February 16, 2012 at 8:36 a.m.
By JEFF NORTON
Irondale 63, North Branch 34
After a disastrous start against the Irondale Knights, North Branch dropped their 13th straight contest.
The Knights jumped out to a 23-0 lead before North Branch could even settle in to any sort of rhythm.
“You can't do against a quality team like they have,” Head Coach David Anderson said. “We just started very cold and everything went wrong it seemed for about the first seven minutes of the game.”
To the boys’ credit, though, they didn’t just quit and actually played Irondale pretty even the rest of the way. Throughout the rest of the first half, Irondale only out-scored North Branch by one, and only tacked five more points on their lead in the second half as Irondale won 63-34.
“Our guys fought hard and played Irondale very tough after the start, but that initial lead was too much to overcome and we weren't able to make the game competitive down the stretch,” Anderson said. “We had good performances off the bench from both Aaron Biederman and Jon Blomquist. Both players stepped up and provided a spark for us to get us started. Brandon Thauwald also had a great game inside and really did a great job attacking the basket, he is really looking like he will turn into a great player. Overall we could take a lot away from the game, even in the loss, and that's what we will do.”
North Branch 66, Cloquet 57
The Vikings finally busted their long slump when they hosted Cloquet over the weekend.
The Vikings built an early seven point lead by limiting Cloquet’s 6’6” center Adam Laine.
“We knew coming into this game that Lane was a great player and most of their offense revolved around getting the ball inside to him,” Anderson said. “Our bigs did an incredible job keeping the ball out of his hands and only allowed him to get nine shots. Brandon Thauwald, Isaac Lewis, and Petar Kosovic all played great interior defense and really were the key for us in this win.
The Vikings were able to keep Cloquet at bay in the second half as Tom Kinsella, Travis VanElsberg and Tyler Knobbe played well and forced Cloquet to play the style of game North Branch wanted.
The three also combined to score 53 of North Branch’s 66 points, shooting 11-of-21 from the three point line.
“We didn't go as deep into our bench as we have in the past but the minutes we got were huge for us,” Anderson said. “Jon Blomquist and Cody Knobbe both played big for us and did a great job coming off the bench and giving our starters a break when they needed it.”
The win snapped a 13 game losing streak for North Branch, and Cloquet is not only a section opponent, but they were a respectable 7-11 on the season heading into the game.
“It was great for our guys to get a big win and see all the hard work pay off,” Anderson said. “I can't express how proud I am of the effort and determination they have shown through this long, tough stretch we have had since Christmas. They played great and deserved to win.
VanElsberg led the way with 21 points, Kinsella added 17 points and Knobbe chipped in 15 in the winning effort.