January 5, 2012 at 8:49 a.m.
In the first round of the South St. Paul Holiday Classic, North Branch took on Class 4A Park of Cottage Grove. Although things weren't as bad as they had been in the past few contests, North Branch looked well on their way to another loss after the first half.
The Vikes struggled a bit on offense, scoring only 20 points, and despite some spirited defense, the Wolfpack scored 32 points in the opening stanza.
In the second half, senior Thomas Kinsella and sophomore Travis VanElsberg put the team on their back and put up a stand against the blowouts that North Branch has been suffering through. The pair of guards began sinking shots from all over the court and eventually fought back to tie the game at the end of regulation.
In the extra frame, the Vikings kept their momentum high and put a nice cushion between the two teams, winning 74-69, and won their first game since a season opening victory over Four Directions.
"Today's game was a great win for our guys," Head Coach David Anderson said after the victory. "We had to tremendous individual performances from Tom and Travis. Tom shot extremely well and stepped up as a leader on the court and Travis did an excellent job leading and making the big shots when we needed them the most."
Kinsella led the team with 27 points and VanElsberg had 24 points in the victory.
But, Anderson wanted to make it clear, especially after some of the early season struggles, that this wasn't a two player win, and the Vikings will never be able to win with just two players. It was a whole team win.
"We had great contributions that don't show up on the stat line. Tyler Knobbe went after every board and played great defense all night," Anderson noted. "Riley Jacobson and Jon Blomquist stepped up big and played huge. Isaac Lewis and Brandon Thauwald did an excellent job stopping Park from getting post entries, which was a real key to our victory. And Cody Knobbe and Matt Blomquist also stepped up and gave us big minutes off the bench."
As much as anything, the Vikes' attitude allowed them to get back in the game. "Our guys fought extremely hard and came back against a tough opponent," Anderson pointed out. "We talked the entire game about how you have to believe that you can do it in order to make it happen. Our guys
believed they could win the entire game and they made that belief become
South St. Paul 58, North Branch 55
The Vikings continued to attempt to turn the corner, but they fell in the second game of the tournament to a previously winless South St. Paul team.
The Packers, 0-8 before their tilt with the Vikings, took a small six point cushion into the locker with them at halftime. Despite their tired legs, the North Branch offense attempted to come back in the second half, but things just didn't click totally for them.
Despite not being very flush with height, the South St. Paul team plays a rugged, tough defense and that knocked the Vikings off of their game a bit. "Our guys fought really hard and played very tough against an extremely
physical South St. Paul team," Anderson said. "Before the game we talked with our guys about how big and physical this team would be, and to our guys credit they never backed down. We played very tough inside and limited the
amount of interior touches the Packers had in the game. Unfortunately we didn't shoot quite as well as we had hoped to and ended up falling just short."
North Branch dropped the contest 58-55. Kinsella led the Vikes in scoring with 13 points and Colin Ehrnriter came off the bench to provide 10 points for North Branch. VanElsberg had eight points.
"We had a great performance from Colin, who came off the bench and sparked us with 10 points," Anderson said. "South St. Paul really focused on trying to shut down Travis, and harassed him the whole game as he brought the ball up
the floor. However, he did a great job of responding to the pressure and getting us started on offense. Tom Kinsella also played big on the perimeter and really helped us out. Overall we were very proud of the effort our guys gave and are optimistic heading into our tough NSC schedule."